Inmates turn tradies while serving time

04:13, Jan 24 2014
Prison trades training
TRAINING UP: Andre de Roo, CPIT Welding and Construction instructor, with offenders from the Youth Unit at Christchurch Men’s Prison.

More than 1000 South Island prisoners are using trades training to move away from crime after they are released.

The prisoners are among more than 4000 across the country who achieved certificates in a variety of trades last year, including plumbing, agriculture, timber processing, catering, horticulture, joinery and light engineering.  

Corrections offender employment southern manager Win McDonald said the department wanted to reduce reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017, and research had showed there was a strong link between employment and reduced reoffending.

"Providing training to offenders is the perfect way to give a prisoner the tools to support themselves and their families and to contribute positively to their community," she said.

Most prisoners had had limited education and had very low levels of literacy and numeracy. The trades training courses offered at the South Island's five prisons included development of those skills, McDonald said.

More employers were also jumping on board with the scheme by employing offenders through the Release to Work programme or after their release from prison.

McDonald said many offenders had never had a job before and having employment gave them structure and a sense of pride.

One youth prisoner at Christchurch Men's Prison, who could not be identified, said taster courses in mechanical automotive, plumbing and construction had helped him decide what career he wanted to pursue after his release.

"It has also helped us become aware of what choices we have on the outside," he said. "The staff have shown us how capable we are at the skills they have taught us."

He planned to undertake a 17-week specialist trade course this year.

Another Christchurch Men's prisoner said he would never have completed level 3 and 4 trade certificates in timber processing outside of prison.

"I have learnt that the more you learn, the easier it is to learn. I don't want to ever come back to prison," he said.

Wendy Taylor, of industry training organisation Competenz, said work opportunities were plentiful for prison graduates, particularly in the forestry and timber processing industries. 

"Our graduates are coming to employers with training and good basic skills. They are a good choice for an employer," she said.


The Press