Recruiting With Conviction: How Seeing What’s on the Inside is Providing a Novel Solution to Local Recruitment Challenges

By Wrekin Sheet Metal
schedule31st Jan 20

Pioneering businesswoman Claire Robinson came up with a novel approach when faced with addressing an ever-tightening labour market and ever-growing skills shortages: she went to prison! 

Not that the Wrekin Sheetmetal owner had done anything wrong – far from it. From contacts she had made as a member of Made in the Midlands Made Equal campaign, Claire became aware of the range of talent available amongst those leaving prisons and desperately looking for a fresh start.  She linked up with the community team at Drake Hall women’s prison in Staffordshire who told Claire about the Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) scheme, which gives serving prisoners the chance to go out to work on day release from prison – and employers a low-risk opportunity to effectively offer a ‘try before you buy’ trial. 

She couldn’t have been more delighted with the result. Speaking to Made in the Midlands Claire said:

"I was intrigued by the scheme and had an opportunity to visit the prison to meet some of the women who were eligible to work under ROTL. It was clear to me just how keen they were to impress so when I had a vacancy come up in my admin support team, I didn’t hesitate to offer one them an opportunity to work for me."

Claire’s ROTL experience was so positive that when she was looking for skilled production staff, she didn’t hesitate to contact the regional prison team to see if there were any welders looking for work and was delighted when another site within the region – Hewell near Redditch – sent her the details of a ROTL eligible prisoner who was able to travel to Telford each day to put in a full shift. Claire continues:

 “The candidate from Hewell sent over to meet me didn’t quite have the skills/experience of a fully-fledged welder so I offered him a trainee position. He’s grabbed the opportunity with both hands by working incredibly hard and has already become what I can only describe as an artist”.

Businesses are already taking advantage 

Across England and Wales, 70,000 people are released from prisons each year, often with a huge appetite to work and ambition to lead a crime-free life. With such a strong focus on rehabilitation and preventing reoffending, prisons now focus on preparing them for employment not only by supplying training, but also a strong work ethic. The expectation is that these ex-offenders will go on to secure jobs, potentially with a business who has trained them.

Organisations such as Greggs, Halfords and Timpsons have already realised the benefits of recruiting from this pool of candidates – many of which are looking for a second chance to live a law-abiding life. 

There are many success stories such as those experienced by local company Wrekin Sheet metals. National chain Halfords, for example, has recruited 12 women from their academy at Drake Hall as bike technicians.  

What are the benefits?

 Training programmes and employment opportunities are created to build a rehabilitative culture. When inmates come towards the end of their sentence, their basic rights and everything that characterises them are built back up, such as trust and responsibility. These skills are vital for anyone in the workplace. 

Many companies often find that these individuals have higher attendance rates and lower sickness absence than the average employee because they have a lot more to prove and to give back to the community. 

 Laurence Scott is the Regional Employment Broker for the Prison Service’s New Futures Network that helps offenders get into employment. 

When asked about whether businesses can put their trust in prisoners, he said: “Prisoners are heavily screened and matched against each opportunity we work on: we ensure those who are put forward for opportunities have the right attitude, aptitude and outlook and the proof it works is in us having an ever-growing network of employers who come back to us time and again to recruit the talent they are looking for - just like Claire has.”

How you can get involved?

If you are interested in providing training in prisons or hiring an ex-offender, please visit or contact [email protected].

Next Issue: we look at how prisons in the west midlands region are delivering the training to help address the chronic skills shortages being experienced across the manufacturing sector in the region.


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