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Highlights from Unlocking Hospitality

Hospitality sector lead, George Welborn, reflects on our flagship, sector-specific recruitment fortnight, Unlocking Hospitality.

The first of its kind

Our first ever Unlocking Potential recruitment campaign, Unlocking Hospitality, saw prison staff, employers, charities, and our other partners delivering an exhilarating two weeks of national events. These were held between 14th – 28th October and hosted in prisons across England and Wales. Unlocking Hospitality aimed to provide more opportunities for prison leavers to secure work opportunities through release on temporary licence (ROTL) and employment on release.

The response has been phenomenal and was a truly collective effort from everyone involved:

  • 702 prisoners attended 44 events across 51 prisons.
  • Over 20 leading employers delivered over 150 interviews, leading to nearly 50 subsequent job offers.
  • 641 ID documents (birth certificates or provision driver’s licenses) were processed which shows how many prisoners were prompted to seek the correct documentation to become job ready.

A flavour of hospitality

Prisoners took part in training events and workshops, where employers showcased the jobs on offer and gave prisoners an insight into the range of opportunities available within the hospitality sector. One of these events was hosted by The Clink at their restaurant in HMP Brixton. Afternoon tea was produced by Clink trainees who had the chance to meet potential employers to learn about jobs within the industry.

You’re learning how to cook, how to produce food, how to taste food

said one Clink trainee. Another highlight event was the Wagamama masterclass at HMP Hatfield where prisoners joined Global Executive Chef, Steve Mangleshot, to cook lunch for the entire prison. The event gave prisoners a taste of life working in a professional kitchen, along with the opportunity to ask about Wagamama’s hiring process. From this, 12 men have progressed to interview.

They’ve done something wrong; they can go and do something right. As soon as they’ve got that chef’s jacket on, no one judges them. They’re taken as a chef and hopefully they will have learned a new career, a new skill.

said Steve. The reception from our prison teams has been fantastic. One Prison Employment Lead told me “I have had fantastic feedback from the prisoners, and they have felt a lot of hope from seeing some well-known companies coming through the gate.” Another guest said

What stood out to me was the excitement and buzz coming from prisoners who felt they could achieve something post release.

A new journey

I would like to thank all the individuals and organisations who made Unlocking Hospitality a success. This includes colleagues at New Futures Network, staff based in prisons and key stakeholders including The Clink Charity, Only a Pavement Away, The Right Choice, UK Hospitality, Greene King, Wagamama, Marston’s, Aimbridge Hospitality and many more.

This is the start of a new journey in supporting and recruiting prison leavers. Keep an eye on our LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter) channels for more information about future events.

By George Welborn, Senior National Employment Manager – Hospitality Sector