Dominic’s story: “Education was my way forward”

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Dominic | 04 June 2021

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in custody. Back in 2017 I was in prison, I’d just come out of a thirteen-year relationship, and I hadn’t seen my kids. I thought, “Life is more important than this. I need to change my ways.”

Education was my way forward. Five or six years ago I would’ve laughed at that. I trained in facilitating life skills sessions and got a mentor role at the prison. I helped eight different guys a day, from Monday to Friday, teaching 26 different life skills. Their life stories really helped me develop as a mentor.

It felt like I was making a difference to their outlook. Sometimes people would come up to me at lunch and say how they’d used a different approach based on what I’d said to them that morning. Their feedback, and the feedback from prison staff, was what propelled me. It put a bounce in my step.

I moved prison and became an education orderly. Given how much I enjoyed mentoring, I kept going with my qualifications. I took my Level 3 in Information, Advice and Guidance, got a SMART Recovery Facilitator Training Certificate. Staff at the prison said to me, “You’ve done it all; you’ve completed everything we have to offer.”

People would come up to me at lunch and say how they’d used a different approach based on what I’d said to them that morning. Their feedback, and the feedback from prison staff, was what propelled me. It put a bounce in my step.

By this point I had been a prison mentor for five or six years – it was where my future lay. With my background in construction, my goal was to work in the trade as an adult tutor. I’d trained in all different sectors in prison – rail, construction and warehousing – to make myself stand out to an employer. There was only one thing holding me back: NEBOSH health and safety qualifications.

That’s when I got in touch with Prisoners’ Education Trust.

I applied successfully and they funded me for my Level 3 National Certificate in Construction Health and Safety. They also funded my course textbooks and exam fees.

Education was the key to changing my life. PET courses give you the chance to start a new career or brush up on the skills you’ve already got.

My last few months in prison were spent under lockdown. It was grim. But I said to myself, “Just because I’m stuck behind this door, it doesn’t mean I can’t be productive.” The PET Advice Line was brilliant during that time – they gave great guidance and were very informative. I’m sure the team got sick of hearing from me!

I was passionate about succeeding on my release. I used to walk around with my folder of achievements under my arm – I was proud of them but it was for networking too. No one was going to come and give me opportunities; I needed to go out and find them.

At an employment fair, I met someone from the education provider Novus. They told me about Frameworks Social Enterprise, an organisation in the North West that provides construction training and employment to people from disadvantaged backgrounds or who have just come out of prison.

I wrote to them and soon received a job offer.

I left prison in November. I showed up at the Frameworks office on the day of my release and started there three days later, as onSITE coordinator. I’ve been in the job four months now and am going from strength to strength.

Thanks to everything I learned in prison, I can now very confidently go into a situation and understand the barriers people face. I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

I spearhead the social enterprise part of the business. I’ve taken us from helping four people a week, to 24. We provide a full circle of support – we train people up in construction; show them how to write CVs and cover letters; help them find placements. I’m running life skills sessions too – how to live a sustainable life away from crime.

Thanks to everything I learned in prison, I can now very confidently go into a situation and understand the barriers people face. I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I break down their life stories and help them think about what they could do differently. I say to them, “Don’t be disheartened if you get knocked back. Success is based on your failures: you need to fail in order to learn from your mistakes.”

Education was the key to changing my life. PET courses give you the chance to start a new career or brush up on the skills you’ve already got. In prison, I’d watch people leave then see the same faces in the lunch queue a couple of days later. They’d say to me, “Dom, there’s nothing out there.” The reality is, you can’t survive without money. But I want to show people: where I was has got me to where I am now. And I’ve got an opportunity to do that now.

Every year PET supports over 1,000 people to pursue an education in prison. Help us fund more.

© Prisoners' Education Trust 2021

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