Work inclusion means challenging employers’ perspectives

The Clink: changing perceptions

The Clink: changing perceptions

Green Hotelier Talking Point: Employment Opportunities and Work Inclusion.

Continuing this month's Talking Point, we approached a charity that knows all about finding employment within hospitality settings for some of the hardest people to employ.

By Chris Moore, chief executive of The Clink Charity.

The Clink Charity, whilst providing training and employment opportunities for ex-offenders to reduce reoffending rates, provides a service that helps to fill a skills shortage in one of Britain’s fastest growing industries. There’s currently a serious shortage of skilled and qualified workers in the hospitality industry so what we're doing is helping to tackle two birds with one stone.

The hospitality industry has so much to offer in terms of a structured and rewarding career - where hard work and dedication is recognised - making the perfect place for people who are often ignored by society to channel their passion and learn a life-long trade.

The most difficult and challenging part of what we do is changing employer’s perceptions of a prisoner; showing them that they can be of benefit to their business.

Many of the prisoners that I see graduate from The Clink started out as someone who didn’t believe in their own ability and had very little self-confidence. Through our Five Step Programme of Recruitment, Training, Auditing, Employment and Mentoring we give them a comprehensive understanding of how a hospitality based business functions through work experience in a professional environment. This gives them valuable skills that will help them find employment upon release and break the cycle of crime. Essentially, we are reducing the reoffending rate of prisoners whilst also helping the hospitality industry close its skills gap.

The most difficult and challenging part of what we do is changing employer’s perceptions of a prisoner; showing them that they can be of benefit to their business. The truth is, someone who has recently been released from prison, and wants to change their life for the better, has a lot more to lose than someone without a criminal record. They are hardworking and passionate but they need the industry to look past their mistakes and take them for what they are now – a skilled professional.

Learning valuable skills at The Clink

Learning valuable skills at The Clink

 

Whilst helping prisoners to regain control of their life we are also offering employers the chance to gain an additional member of their team who is trained and qualified to an exceptional standard. This provides a good opportunity for companies to build and improve their corporate social responsibility by making a positive contribution to society.

When you consider that 74% of people who leave prison without secured employment reoffend within two years, and the average cost to the tax payer to house a prisoner for one year is £37,648, does it not make sense to train them whilst they are still in prison? We teach them skills such as cooking, front of house service, butchery and baking; services that are valuable to the British economy and should be respected for the unique crafts they are when done properly.

When released, each graduate of The Clink is mentored by one of our dedicated support workers, who helps the graduate find employment, adjust to life on the outside and visits them weekly in their place of work for six to 12 months, to ensure they stay on track. To do this costs us as a charity about £2,000 per prisoner – a dramatic reduction in cost compared to another year in prison, if they were to reoffend.

The Clink Charity

Since opening, The Clink Restaurant at HMP High Down has reduced the reoffending rate of prisoners who have trained in the restaurant from 46.9% (national average) to 12.5% (verified statistics from 2011) following one whole year of release. We will have verified 2012 results for both the restaurant at HMP High Down and at HMP Cardiff later in 2014.

The charity has gone from strength-to-strength over the past four years with the charity’s second restaurant; The Clink Cymru at HMP Cardiff, opening in September 2012 and the third opening at HMP Brixton in February 2014. However, the charity relies on philanthropic businesses and individuals to continue to offer this service and reach our goal of having a total of 10 projects in operation across the prison estate by 2017, providing the UK hospitality industry with 500 highly trained graduates each year.

Finding suitable employment opportunities for the graduates is crucial to our success so if you think your business could offer an ex-offender a position and a second chance in life then please contact me, Chris Moore, chief executive of The Clink Charity by emailing chrismoore@theclinkrestaurant.com.

For more information about the charity and its restaurants please visit The Clink Charity.

There are other ways to help disadvantaged people further their career prospects within the hospitality industry. The International Tourism Partnership works with local NGOs and member hotels around the world to provide training and work opportunities for young people who would otherwise likely be denied the opportunity, via the Youth Career Initiative programme.

Business in the Community has begun a Ban the Box campaign asking employers to leave off questions which asks about previous convictions from any application form.

Do you think your business could open up to offer employment opportunities to disadvantaged people? Do you think it's the responsibility of the hospitality industry to provide training and employment to young people or those with colourful backgrounds? Have you done so within your business and found it makes good business sense? Have your say and share your views. We want to hear from you.

 

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