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Prisoners to train for career in IT

The scheme launched at HMP Wandsworth will boost former inmates' chances of finding work in the tech sector, and may even help plug the UK's skills gap
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

Inmates at London's largest prison, HMP Wandsworth, are getting the chance to train for a career in IT installation.

Wandsworth prison already offers various training options to prisoners, including industrial cleaning, bricklaying, carpentry, tailoring, electrical, painting and decorating, and plumbing — along with educational services such as creative writing, drama, English, IT, maths, social and life skills and yoga.

But its newest vocational academy — launched yesterday by the minister for prisons, David Hanson, and the minister for skills, David Lammy — will offer training in data cabling and network installation for the IT industry, boosting inmates' chances of eventually finding employment in the tech sector.

The academy is a public/private partnership between HM Prison Service (HMPS) and construction company Bovis Lend Lease, networking giant Cisco and network cabling company Panduit. It was developed by not-for-profit organisation Working Ventures UK through its 'Exit to Work' programme and London skills organisation the London Employer Accord, working in partnership with the three companies. It will be delivered by Cisco and HMPS Regime Services.

Scot Gardner, director of public sector, Cisco UK & Ireland, said industry, government and academy must continue to work together to address the UK's IT skills shortfall. The company estimates demand for data and network cabling installers outstrips supply by at least 20 percent and there is a shortfall of around 61,000 properly qualified employees in the UK alone.

Gardner said in a statement: "We believe it's imperative that private and public sectors continue to work together — industry, government and academia — in innovative ways to expand the available skill base to ensure the UK prospers long-term. The Academy at HMP Wandsworth will develop real-world, in-demand skills helping to prepare inmates for the workplace and therefore reducing reoffending."

After completing training at the academy, offenders will be interviewed by BeOnsite, Bovis's not-for-profit training company, and — if successful — will be employed on release from prison. When in employment, they can also be provided with an option to continue training through the government's 'Train to Gain' programme.

The skills minister said in a statement: "The academy is a demonstration of the power of partnerships coming together to benefit employers, transform offenders' lives and make society safer by reducing reoffending. I would encourage all employers to see the business benefits in linking with prisons to get offenders into training and into work."

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