Working on It at Waikeria
Working on It at Waikeria
Prisoners will be released from Waikeria Prison ‘work-ready’ thanks to a partnership between the Department of Corrections and Ministry of Social Development (MSD) formalised late last year.
The enhanced inter-agency collaboration has rolled out across the country and will ensure each work- ready prisoner is prepared for employment on release with a full CV, record of learning and other relevant training suitable for the local job market. Work broker services start 10 weeks prior to release to limit the amount of time an offender is unemployed from the time they leave prison.
Waikeria Prison Release to Work Broker Steve DeWet and MSD Case Manager Kay Te Huia have utilised the new initiative to create a series of workshops which build prisoner knowledge of the employment market and the skills required to make the most of work opportunities upon release.
The workshop content has been developed to focus on the following key areas: individual strengths-based career planning, job seeking strategies, CV/cover letter development, and interview skills which also includes how to address criminal history with a potential employer.
Steve is enthused by the outcomes so far:
“Over the last three months we have supported 14 prisoners within three to six months of release through these workshops with ever improving results. The workshops are voluntary and prisoners are motivated to attend by recognising the benefits available to them.”
Some of the skills taught are completely new to prisoners, particularly those who have not had steady employment in the past or have never had to apply for a job before. One prisoner highlighted how useful he found the workshop:
“The only thing I’m good at is being a criminal… Although I mustn’t be that good at it because I keep coming back here! I’m glad I’m doing this course, it’s time for me to change my ways and this will help me do that.”
Ensuring all prisoners are released with the necessary skills to gain employment has always been a goal of Waikeria Assistant Prison Director Jim Watson, who has been collaborating with MSD for a number of years,
“This is about more than just getting people into jobs. Having meaningful employment can really help someone to turn their life around and research tells us it can contribute to reduced re-offending. When someone has a job, it can give them stability, a sense of pride, and a feeling of achievement. All of these things are important because they mean people are contributing to society and therefore we have safer communities.”
Delivery of the workshops continues to evolve with regular participant feedback, ensuring content is fit for purpose and meets each individual’s needs. This is something that is vital to success says Jim:
“Most of the feedback already has been really positive and we anticipate this will help us to grow our audience. This foundation provides opportunity for real jobs for real change.”
With the help of MSD, Corrections will be able to determine participants’ success in the community as they achieve stable employment.