Courtney is a Careers Advisor based in prisons.
I’m based in Wormwood Scrubs and I provide 1 to 1 support, talking to clients about educational history, positions available in the prison, what sessions/courses they can take. For those due to be released we provide support for them to access opportunities on the outside – CV writing, disclosure, the kind of work that is available and referrals.
I’ve been at Wormwood Scrubs for 14 months, but before this I was working in the community for 6 years. I worked as a careers advisor in the community, we used to get people referred from job centres. They would come to see us and we would put together an action plan that we both agree on and ensure we follow.
A lot of the time offenders don’t know what skills they have that are transferable. Our role is to inspire self confidence, commitment, and that they can obtain employment that is sustainable. If they are in work the possibility of re-offending is less likely.
If we can get them to stay for a period of time (at least 6 months), they are more likely to stay in the role. When we get people coming back we try to encourage them again or get them to take another training course, giving them the tools to move on really.
I sit down with them and give them 1 to 1 advice, information and guidance, maybe what courses they want to do. I ask questions, discuss suitable roles, and resettlement see them if they have any issues to help ease their transition and need support finding work.
Sometimes when they first come in they are worried, usually happy to take part in the induction, but deflated. We let them know what’s available to them, the procedure and how it works. We build a rapport and by the time they leave they are more trusting, and they understand what we do. If they need support on the outside then we can access that for them.
Ongoing support is what we provide for up to a year after release. But if they lose work after one year, we would still see them as we have built up a rapport and we are not going to say they can’t see us anymore. The aim is that they see us less.
There is five of us in our team and we also have a Prospects advisor working with us. We also work with the education department; they will give us the basic skills assessment – which we refer to all the time.
We have regular team meetings here and regularly with contractors, so we can talk about what’s working, bounce ideas off one another. Helps to find out what’s working for other people.
I can’t access the internet, it’s restricted, there is only some stuff we can access, and we have to depend on knowledge and presentations in the department to see what they offer. Also personal connections. I have personally worked in the community, making connections with other organizations so that makes it easier for referrals. We have various workshops, and work with other organisations like Plias, Blue sky, Working Links and Citizens Trust.
I think it all comes down to changing your way of thinking. For advisors I would say don’t judge a book by its cover, and for clients, there are opportunities out there, you need to be prepared to take them.
We have soft outcomes and hard outcomes. A hard outcome would be employment, soft would be them starting a course, taking a further course, and completing the course. In some cases after four weeks they don’t want to do the course anymore, it’s about knowing where they want to go now, did they find the course useful, and if not, why not.