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Unlocking Potential through Retail and Logistics

Colin Manns, National Employment Manager and co-ordinator of the latest of our national recruitment drives, Unlocking Retail and Logistics, offers his thoughts about the event.

The ‘Unlocking’ journey

Since October 2022, New Futures Network has successfully delivered three ‘Unlocking Potential’ campaigns, which are sector-focused recruitment drives. Our fourth drive, Unlocking Retail & Logistics, took place in June this year, which I was excited to co-ordinate.

Prison leavers are amongst some of the most talented and industrious workers I have ever encountered in my career, and I’m keen to demonstrate this to employers during Unlocking drives. I also want to promote to prisoners that there are rewarding career paths within these sectors, and that it extends way beyond ‘shops and trucks’, as is a common misconception.

A new lease on life

The various career path opportunities were showcased through HMP Prescoed’s final Unlocking Retail & Logistics event, where prison leavers approached employers such as HSS Hire for driving roles but left their stall having also applied for Engineering roles within the company – jobs they weren’t previously aware of.

Josh, an applicant I spoke to during the event, said:

It is so encouraging to know that we don’t just have to settle for dead end, low paid jobs on release and that there is a chance of a real career when I finally leave prison.

Office of National Statistics data suggests that although there are millions of people employed in the UK, we still face thousands of vacancies, which is why we want to tap into employment opportunities in the UK’s retail and logistics sectors to give prison leavers the best second chance in life.

The main events under the Unlocking Retail and Logistics umbrella ran between 26th- 30th June with a few events taking place in subsequent weeks to suit employers’ needs. The response and results so far have been phenomenal.

  • 502 prisoners attended 32 events across 25 prisons.
  • Over 30 leading employers attended or hosted events.
  • Over 100 interviews were held with 36 confirmed offers of employment to date

Challenges and gratitude

Prisoners took part in a range of events including job fairs, information sessions, interview training workshops and also met with prison leavers who are now successfully employed within the sectors. One attendee at HMP Onley’s event commented:

Before coming to prison, I was unemployed and homeless and this (a presentation by Iceland’s Director of Rehabilitation, Paul Cowley) has really inspired me to get back into work and made me realise that there is hope of changing to be a better person.

Events such as these can be both difficult and demanding to arrange when navigating the unique environments in prisons, in addition to the daily duties of staff and partners. On behalf of New Futures Network and myself, I would like to offer my appreciation and gratitude to both the prison staff and all the employers that actively engaged with the campaign. This sentiment is clearly reciprocated by the prisoners – as one said:

Keep doing what you guys are doing because it is helping us a lot.

Looking forward

Our next recruitment drive, Unlocking Hospitality will be returning between 6th-20th October 2023, where once again New Futures Network will be cooking up success as part of our mission to continue securing employment on release opportunities for prison leavers.

By Colin Manns, MoD Co-ordinator and National Employment Manager – Retail and Logistics Sectors