Prison Leavers Given Life-Changing Employment Opportunity

Individuals in custody at HMP & YOI Grampian have been given a life-changing offer of employment after graduating from Scotland’s first prison-based ‘Greene King Training Academy’.

The new partnership between the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), Greene King, and Aberdeen City Council seeks to improve people’s chances of successfully reintegrating into their communities upon leaving prison, reduce reoffending rates, and help mitigate recruitment challenges for the hospitality sector.

The 12-week academy programme sees people in custody trained to work in a replica Greene King kitchen, by professional chefs.

Equipment for the kitchen was funded by Aberdeen City Council’s ABZWorks, which supports people living in the city to develop confidence, knowledge, skills or experience to help them attain employment.

HMP & YOI Grampian became the first training academy north of the border, following the initial conception of the programme at HMP Thameside in London.

Partnership working between SPS and Greene King began in 2022, when employability events were held for people in custody, which led to 18 individuals interviewed and offered employment.

In 2022, Greene King committed to employing 300 people leaving custody across the UK by 2025.

Ministry of Justice research has shown that people leaving custody with an offer of employment are less likely to reoffend than those without.

The training academy is the first time an external employer has provided prison-based training for direct recruitment of those at HMP & YOI Grampian.

Students are given the opportunity to attain SVQ accredited qualifications that are recognised across the hospitality sector.

Through a mix of classroom learning and practical sessions, they learn about food safety practices, kitchen hygiene and maintenance, allergens and Natasha’s Law, and the importance of time management and teamwork.

All four participants of the pilot course have been given an offer of employment in a Greene King establishment, following their release.

For some, this will be their first chance of achieving meaningful and sustained employment.

Following the success of the pilot, the course has been extended for a further 12 months – with the next cohort being the first ever mixed sex group.

It is anticipated that in its first year, the training academy may see up to 20 individuals graduate into employment on their release.

On 6 December 2023, the first students graduated from the course in a ceremony in front of their family and friends, alongside senior representatives from SPS, Greene King, and Aberdeen City Council.

They were each presented with their own chef’s aprons to use in their new roles.

Brian McKirdy, Governor in Charge at HMP & YOI Grampian, said:
“This initiative has made a real impact to the confidence and aspiration of the students. The effort and commitment shown by SPS and Greene King staff has been matched by the participants, and each should be proud of their achievement.

“We are very much looking forward to following the journey of those who have completed the academy as they move into employment with Greene King, and we are thankful to Aberdeen City Council for their support in bringing this ambitious programme to life.”

Assad Malic, Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer at Greene King, said:
“Our Releasing Potential initiative aims to provide employment for people leaving prison and in 2022 we set ourselves a target of recruiting 300 prison leavers across the UK by 2025.

“Working collaboratively with HMP Grampian, the Scottish Prison Service and Aberdeen City Council to install a training kitchen has been a fantastic experience, which we hope can now be replicated in other prisons across Scotland.

“As the largest pub operator in Scotland, we see first-hand the important role pubs play in communities and initiatives like this further demonstrate how pubs can drive social mobility and support people in building long careers in hospitality.”

Aberdeen City Council Co-Leader, Councillor Christian Allard, said:
“People leaving custody face significant challenges in securing employment.

“This partnership between Aberdeen City Council’s ABZWorks service, HMP Grampian and Greene King is a great example of how we can make a real difference to people’s lives and society.

“By working together with partner agencies and industry we are creating truly innovative and inclusive opportunities to support people into employment, ensuring no-one is left behind.”