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Want well-trained staff? Hire an ex-prisoner

A criminal record isn’t traditionally the kind of experience bosses look for when hiring new staff. But savvy business owners know that released prisoners can be a huge source of untapped and work-ready talent — particularly in industries short of skilled labour.

Corrections staff work with employers to get the right person with the right skills for the business.

Corrections staff work with employers to get the right person with the right skills for the business.

See the person, not the conviction

Many ex-offenders have attributes that make them ideal job candidates, including resourcefulness, resilience, loyalty, and a strong desire to work. Most have also upskilled in job training programmes while in prison.

So the next time you’re recruiting, here are reasons why hiring an ex-offender can help you, your business, your community — and your new worker — win big.

Trained talent

Too few qualified workers in your industry? Released prisoners could be suitable candidates for your job vacancies.

The Department of Corrections studies market trends to identify industries short of skilled labour. This data focuses programmes to improve prisoners’ employment skills, training and formal qualifications in these areas. Current examples include:

  • construction
  • farming and horticulture 
  • catering
  • grounds and asset maintenance.

“Training prisoners to return to the workforce also involves understanding the work ethic and developing a positive self-awareness and the ability to relate effectively to others,” says Julie Wilson, the national manager of employment partnerships at Corrections.

Corrections staff then work with employers to find suitable candidates.

This is because one of Corrections’ main goals is to reduce reoffending. Research shows ex-prisoners who find sustainable work are less likely to reoffend.

Stable work and job satisfaction are closely linked with lower rates of reoffending.

Stable work and job satisfaction are closely linked with lower rates of reoffending.

Free recruitment and HR support

Corrections provides a free end-to-end recruitment service with the option of ongoing support from a professional HR advisor for you and your new employee. This means in-work support and opportunities to tap into tailored training.

Corrections can also help you gain quick access to a pool of skilled workers through the Release to Work programme. This places suitable prisoners in paid employment in the community, with a view to them gaining (or continuing) employment upon release. Prisoners get work experience in the outside world, and employers get the opportunity to work with trained, skilled, motivated workers on a fixed-term basis.

Release to Work programme (external link) — Corrections New Zealand

For any Release to Work enquiries, contact: julie.wilson@corrections.govt.nz

Case Study Gardener 200

Expert view

Motivated workers

“Once ex-prisoners have settled into the job, they demonstrate high productivity and loyalty and a willingness to turn their lives around,” says Stephen Cunningham, the director of offender employment and reintegration at Corrections.

His team works with employers to find jobs for released prisoners. “Our employers tell us they are impressed with the quality of the training their new employees have completed — they come well-equipped with quality skills.”

Cunningham says Corrections’ proven track record with matching skilled workers to willing workplaces means a lot of repeat business for their service — and lasting employer-employee relationships. These include commercial fruit and vegetable growers represented by Horticulture New Zealand, and Waste Management, which has 65 sites across New Zealand.

“We have heard a number of stories of people with convictions beginning at entry level roles and then gaining promotions and moving into areas of responsibility.”

Give a job, change a life

You can disrupt the cycle of repeat offending by offering employment opportunities.

As well as the Release to Work programme, there are other ways to do this with Corrections:

  1. Become an Employer Partner to provide industry opportunities and training pathways to employment. 
  2. Volunteer your services, resources or equipment to support those in prison or on a community sentence.

Offering ex-offenders stable employment helps keep your community safer. Plus you get the satisfaction of knowing you are making a difference by giving someone a second chance.

Have you employed a released prisoner?

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