To mark International Women’s Day 2021, Sodexo is launching a series of virtual engagement events designed to help female prison leavers get back into employment.

The sessions will be delivered as part of Sodexo’s SheWorks programme, aimed at introducing women to new job opportunities they may not have previously considered and will focus on female offenders approaching prison release.

Virtual sessions will be delivered in two of Sodexo’s female prisons, HMP Bronzefield in Surrey and HMP Peterborough, as well as HMP Drake Hall in Staffordshire. 

Each event will include guest speakers from across Sodexo’s business talking about their jobs and careers. There will also be an opportunity to identify job opportunities with partner organisations and employability guidance and advice. 

Working in partnership with New Futures Network, a department of the Ministry of Justice, suitable participants, have been identified for the programme and will be inspired to think about their interests and options once released.

Janine McDowell, CEO Sodexo Justice said: “Women in prison often face a number of hurdles when trying to secure employment on release, which for many is a crucial step towards resettling back into the community. 

This new series of Sodexo’s SheWorks webinars will hopefully offer inspiration to women looking to embark upon a new life journey – one that will open-up new job and career opportunities and ultimately help them back into employment.

Sodexo continues its commitment to celebrate and empower women on International Women’s Day, investing year on year in initiatives to accelerate the progress towards gender equality and societal change by empowering women in communities.

Having planned to launch the SheWorks programme to ex-offenders in 2020, Sodexo delayed the project because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, the programme will engage with the women via a series of virtual events and will also be extended to a number of other prisons once the easing of current restrictions allows. 

Beverley Toone, Women’s Estate Group Employment Broker said: “New Futures Network and the Women’s Prison Estate welcome this partnership.

“We look forward to working with Sodexo to help provide employability support and employment opportunities for our women, which in turn will help to reduce re-offending.”

The programme has also been welcomed by the equalities lead for HMPPS women’s estate, Laurie Buckton who said: “The women in our prisons often find it challenging to gain employment on release, which is why initiatives such as the SheWorks programme are so important to help them to gain valuable skills, and inspire them to have the confidence to apply for jobs in the community.”

As part of its social impact pledge and commitment to creating local career pathways, Sodexo aims to fill 5% of its job vacancies with prison leavers and those with an offending background by 2023, where appropriate to do so. 

More information about the pledge is available here.

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