Levent is a Careers Advisor, working with 18-24 year olds.
I work with the National Careers Service through Prospects. My role is to provide impartial advice, research employment opportunities for 18-24 year olds, leading to purposeful full time employment. I’m based in ISIS.
I’ve been here nearly two years now. I first I started as an admin assistant, and when Samantha was on maternity leave, I stepped up and took over the position and had all the training. I used to work at HMP Brixton before and spoke to the careers advisor there and thought this would be interesting and something I would enjoy and then I heard about the admin vacancy at ISIS and that was the foot in the door.
Growing up, I went to college, did my A-Levels but was stuck in terms of what I wanted to do for my career. I didn’t go to uni and so wanted to help people find out what they want to do too. I am now 25, I was 23 when I started so was the same age as the guys I work with now so know what it feels like when you don’t know what you want to do.
Knowing what you want to do can prevent turning to crime again. Knowing that you are going to enjoy work and can make an honest living.
I work closely with education, to discover long term goals, clients then have an education induction and I see which courses can help them with their careers prospect. We then work on an action plan, points for the guys to take up whilst they are here. It’s 1 to 1 inductions on a Monday usually with new clients, and middle of the week I catch up with the guys that I have already been working with to see how they are getting on. Towards the end of the week I catch up with those who are leaving the establishment ensuring that they have everything they need… organisations to see when they are out and where they can get support.
Internally I work with the housing department, it is so important that before we can make referrals they have a fixed abode. Also the education team, to see if they are staying on track and continuing to manage their careers. I also work with the internal Job Centre team and healthcare if the guys have been using drug support services, any addiction which would be a barrier.
Externally, we work with employment support agencies, organisations that offer training, so training centres, charities, organisations that offer free training courses.
We have regular team days at Prospects where all advisors come together, so we can get updates on each prison. We do get to talk to each other, especially when we have someone being transferred to us from another jail. We do this as often as possible.
If clients have had a bad experience with careers advisors in the past and they have been let down in another prison they think you are merely selling a dream, so the initial reaction might be negative at first. On the other hand, some are willing to work closely with you, but you have to work hard to break down the wall, have a good rapport, because some of them have been in and out and through the process a few times they are sceptical.
It’s hard to pinpoint individual successes, but when you get a good idea of how determined they are to come out to something purposeful that is helpful. Young people are more open to do something on the outside so ensuring that there is something in place for them can help them, especially if they are doing something they will enjoy they are more like to stick to it.
Education is key in changing attitudes to employment training. Knowing more about an industry, openness to learning… open to people… Not being close-minded and being more receptive to individuals who are willing to help them.
Due to security issues you can’t call clients directly but we do call the organisation they have been referred to, to check how they are doing and if there are positive outcomes. In some cases they promise to attend meetings once they are out and don’t. It’s frustrating if they haven’t completed the action plan or done what we agreed.
We don’t have access to the internet in prisons but I usually refer clients to the National Careers Service website, that’s the one I use the most. I find that giving offenders an actual location to attend is better as if we ask them to do something on a website, they may not do it.
I aim to mainly find employment but sometimes clients are not job ready, they have never worked a day in their life, have dropped out of school, you have to cater to what you have in front of you so there are different outcomes. The outcome we hope to achieve is that they come out to employment or to full time education and ensuring enhanced employability.
There is one guy who is working with London Youth on their Build It project which provides construction work experience. They had a session with the guys here in the prison, and he was heavily involved in gangs but after the session he said that he was interested in working with them and getting out of his previous lifestyle. He has a plastering qualification now and is working in paid employment and also mentoring. Seeing through the process showed that there is a real outcome at the end. We have sessions regularly where organisations come to speak about volunteering opportunities that are available in construction, sports, and we also have a theatre/media organisation that works with ex-offenders.
I’m always positive when talking to clients but I tell them straight, I don’t sugar coat it. Clients respect you more if you are real and show the true reality. Also stick to your word, be open-minded to what will be thrown at you.