Developing new approaches to support people on probation in a changing labour market

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As specialists in helping people with criminal convictions return to work, we’ve seen the changing labour market bring opportunity to those we help, and our unique partnership with Maximus has allowed us to make a real difference to those more likely to be excluded from the labour market.   

Like Maximus, we are led by the potential, skills, and aspirations of those we help to deliver a service that is unique to every individual. Since 2021, we’ve been helping participants on the Restart Scheme in South and West Yorkshire to overcome their barriers and move forward with their lives. 

So far, through our partnership, we have supported more than 15 people back into sustainable employment in Yorkshire. Considering those who are referred to us often face the most difficult barriers to employment, each job outcome is something to be immensely proud of.   

Thanks to the partnership’s growing success, we’ve also extended our direct peer support to participants on the Restart Scheme in South and East London. 

The people we work with benefit from our specialised support, alongside Maximus’ extensive employability experience, which together has proved fruitful as we adapt to the changing labour market landscape.  

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the labour market has shifted rapidly and we’ve had to develop new approaches to support our participants, working with Maximus to help individuals recognise their skillset while engaging with employers to find qualified candidates for their roles.  

1. Redefining employer attitudes

The changing labour market has proved beneficial in altering how employers view their employees, as organisations consider every avenue to recruit and retain talent.  

The labour market continues to be buoyant with roles available in all sectors and employers considering candidates who they may, previously, have been less willing to do so.  

As employers begin to embrace the idea of recruiting from previously socially isolated groups, they are no longer asking “why” they should recruit those with criminal convictions, but rather “how”.   

An increasing number of employers are approaching us to support them to get their culture right, consult on recruitment procedures and policy development, and understand risk management. We’ve also helped them to conduct interviews, deal with disclosure and vetting procedures, onboard their employees and examine how they can evidence social impact.  

Organisations like Maximus are working with employers to address their labour shortages and tap into this talent pool. As well as our work on the Restart Scheme, we consult with Maximus on the delivery of the Ministry of Justice’s Employability, Training and Education (ETE) programme – yet another avenue where employers are being actively supported to recruit people on probation. 

2. Helping individuals to recognise their talent 

For the participants we support, we ensure a collaborative approach throughout their journey. By working alongside Maximus and their recruitment teams, we empower participants to realise their skillset, work on their mindset and develop resilience when engaging with potential employers. 

Recognising their skillset takes place when advisors work closely with participants to fully unpick their life story. We often find they may lack in previous employment experience, but have developed considerable transferable skills without realising. For example, work in prison helps to develop skills that are relevant to jobs market, but the participant may be apprehensive, or reluctant to mention this.  

Developing resilience is about offering hope to participants that there are opportunities for them. We share our own individual and collective experiences as an organisation, while preparing participants to handle rejection and use it as motivation to move forward. During our onboarding process we also unpick what motivates participants and how we can use these motivations to drive them to achieve their goals. 

We help participants to understand the local labour market and its impact on their job searching. Our advisors work to determine their preferred job roles, offering practical advice and guidance on whether there is alignment with the current landscape. We also support with job searching, application, interview preparation and first steps into employment – providing crucial guidance at every stage of the process 

3. Working with employers to showcase their offering 

As we adapt to the changing labour market, our challenge is twofold. Not only must we help employers recognise the talent of our participants with previous convictions, but we must also help employers to market themselves as an attractive prospect that will fully support their individual needs. 

The upheaval caused by the pandemic has given employees the opportunity to demand more from their employers, shifting the onus on businesses and what they can offer in order to attract and retain talent.  

Previously, salary and a few basic benefits were more readily accepted but nowadays employers need to demonstrate what stands them apart from the competition – with employer brand, culture, flexible working, workplace transparency and a positive approach to diversity and inclusion all at the forefront of employees’ considerations when deciding where to work.   

Looking ahead to face the labour market changes together  

The changing labour market has arguably brought more opportunities than challenges. Our challenge as an organisation has been to recognise what employers need and ensuring we are helping our candidates to develop these skills.  

Together with Maximus we are utilising our combined skillsets to fully support those with criminal convictions to overcome their barriers, while providing employers the tools they need to adapt to the shifting landscape.  

We are excited to continue our work with Maximus, empowering participants to move forward and  supporting employers to recruit people with convictions safely and fairly as part of their business-as-usual process.  

08 February, 2023