Criminally Overlooked: Ex-Offenders in Construction
Posted: 24th July 2018
RIFT Social Enterprise
The spotlight is now firmly on the challenges facing UK construction. Despite the uneven political and economic landscape, the industry will keep growing through 2022. According to the latest Construction Skills Network report, construction output is expected to grow by 1.3% over the next five years, creating 158,000 new jobs to handle infrastructure and housing demands. Recruiting and training these workers means seizing on new sources of labour.
In some specialist occupations, like wood trades and interior fit out, the need for new workers remains acute. Additionally, the ongoing challenge of an ageing workforce will become more pressing if Brexit stems the flow of overseas workers. As an industry surviving on innovation, construction needs to set out a compelling vision to the more diverse and skilled intake it urgently needs.
Many construction companies are actively looking to recruit ex-offenders to plug the labour shortage, while skills and employment support programmes aim to link prison leavers with the sector. In 2017, the CITB commissioned three projects (Scottish Building Federation, Lendlease & BAM Nuttall) to help construction employers recruit and retain ex-offenders. Figures for 2013/14 from the Skills Funding Agency showed over 30,000 Offender Learning Enrolments (aims) on construction courses in the English prison education system and almost 22,000 Offender Learning Achievements (aims) in the same year. The sector has recognised that prisoners and ex-offenders can solve the skills shortage, but there are still barriers to overcome.
Recent research by Working Links shows:
- 55% of employers would reject an ex-offender applicant outright, or pick an equally qualified candidate with no conviction instead.
- Only 20% of employers have knowingly recruited ex-offenders.
- Employers wrongly distrust ex-offenders. In reality, over 60% of employers found that they worked as hard as, or harder than, those with no convictions.
Recent government figures show 46% of prisoners are interested in working for themselves after release. Given that 12% were self-employed or working under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) before prison, and that most prisons offer vocational training in construction, there's a significant untapped labour market here.
RIFT Social Enterprise wants to help bridge this gap and can identify prisoners due for release within nine months who are qualified for and interested in CIS work. We'll discuss the implications of self-employment with them, giving them the knowledge and awareness of the responsibilities that they will need.
RIFT can arrange for construction organisations to meet candidates suitable for CIS work, to discuss roles and expectations. Candidates offered potential roles on release will be assigned a personal RIFT tax specialist to fund the establishment of their self-employed status, take care of the legalities and provide up to six months' post-release support. We'll make sure they don’t fall foul of HMRC regulations and therefore represent sustainable, long-term labour for construction firms.
At RIFT we have a close working relationship with HMRC, a dedicated helpline and access to specialist HMRC advisers to handle issues promptly and efficiently. RIFT Social Enterprise is, to our knowledge, the only organisation offering prisoners a dedicated one-to-one tax advice service and bespoke advice and training on self-employment.
As a former Prison Governor in three prisons and a Director of a company awarded a £30m government contract to enhance offender employment prospects I understand the prison system and its limitations. I am committed to giving prisoners the best possible chance of successful rehabilitation and sustainable employment.
Contributor: Andy Gullick is the Chief Executive of RIFT Social Enterprise, a not-for-profit organisation, established in 2018 by RIFT Group Chairperson Jan Post to bring world-class tax expertise within vulnerable people's reach. For further information please contact Andy on 07538 234272 or at email@example.com or visit http://riftgroup.com/rift-social-enterprise/
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