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Supporting ex-offenders with employability skills

Published on : 4/29/21
  • At Sodexo, we are passionate about changing the lives of the residents in our prisons, and of those we support through the Community Rehabilitation Companies, for the better.

    We aim to do this by engaging them in programmes to help reduce re-offending and equipping them with employability skills to help them find and keep employment. 

    We have also made a commitment in our social impact pledge to fill 5% of our job vacancies with prison leavers and those with an offending background by 2023, where appropriate to do so. 

    Mentoring CRC users 

    In 2019, Sodexo Justice, through the Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire & Hertfordshire Community Rehabilitation Company (BeNCH CRC) set up a project to help former CRC service users become peer mentors to support existing service users to develop their employability skills. 

    This had three aims: 

    • Support new and existing service users to change and desist from offending
    • Provide ex-service users with skills and experience to improve long term career prospects
    • To employ a pool of volunteers to also give them the opportunity to gain experience and employment skills, and to support them with their onward journey away from crime.  

    Former service users who are interested in becoming a mentor are supported with an initial two-day training course and assessment centre which covers essential knowledge, skills and behaviours, including safeguarding, trauma-informed approaches, motivational interviewing, confidentiality, staying safe and maintaining professional boundaries. 

    Participants who successfully complete the course and demonstrate the requisite skills, attitudes and motivation are invited to start shadowing mentors in the community to further test their aptitude and resilience. Once trained, peer mentors begin supporting service users. 

    The feedback from service users and CRC staff has been exceptional. Not only have the mentors had a positive impact on the service users, helping them to overcome barriers which could lead to reoffending, the impact on the mentors themselves has also been significant, helping to improve their own self-esteem, giving them the skills, confidence and meaningful employment.  

    Employing ex-offenders in our business 

    As a business, we support managers to explore the possibilities of recruiting ex-offenders where it’s appropriate to do so. As hospital catering manager, found out, this can have positive outcomes for the business and the employees.
    “It was an HR business partner who first suggested I explore different routes to recruitment, specifically the possibility of employing ex-offenders,” James explained. "I was very open to exploring new avenues to find good people, and passionate about getting involved in this."
    We contacted Sodexo colleagues working in probation at South Yorkshire CRC with the relevant job descriptions and they then liaised with their service users. We were able to offer two candidates full time roles in our catering team, assisting with food preparation, taking meal orders and responsible for general hygiene and cleanliness in the kitchensThey have picked up new skills, such as learning to drive the electronic vehicles we use to transport the meals around the large hospital campus. 

    I’m a great believer in rehabilitation and offering opportunities to those who have been in a bad place and want to improve their future. It’s good for the business to put something back into local communities. 

    Both new recruits have fitted in fantastically and quickly proved to be responsible, loyal, hardworking members of the team. They’ve made a great start in what is a very dynamic, fast paced environment.   
    I’m very happy to fly the flag for recruiting ex-offenders. My advice is simple: get involved; be fair; judge people on the work they do, not their past.”

    Find out more about how we support ex-offenders.