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Mind the Gap

Claudia Vince, about 4 years ago

The Mind the Gap project is a masterclass in collaborative working. Passionate innovators from across the public, private and voluntary sectors are working together to combat three crucial issues that have a hugely negative impact upon our society: immense barriers to social exclusion, chronic skills gaps and stubborn reoffending rates.

The latest Construction Skills Network forecast indicates that an extra 200,000 new jobs will be created in the next five years as the construction industry grows. We are currently experiencing a skills shortage across many of the biggest sectors in the UK, the construction industry being one. Because of this talent shortage, the drive for change is stronger than ever before and many organisations want more inclusivity and diversity in all areas of construction.

Bounce Back has been aware of this issue for years and are working to address the skills shortage by delivering construction training courses in prison and the community for ex-offenders. Along with Bounce Back, Dominic Headley, Be Onsite, Lendlease, Nacro, A Fairer Chance and Mitie Foundation are partnering up to deliver a ground-breaking initiative part funded by the CITB. Mind the Gap focuses on developing employment pathways into the construction industry for people with convictions who are motivated and ready for work. The scheme works closely with employers to ensure they have the correct knowledge, experience and training to work with this population.

The project is now in year 2 of 3 and long-term construction training and support for over 400 businesses is currently being designed, tested and delivered.

Our employee travelled from HMP East Sutton Park in Kent to central London every day working from 8am to 5pm in a role that would traditionally be associated with men. She went on to gain formal qualifications and transitioned from HMP to release, maintaining her job.

Through the Mind the Gap consortium, employers will be provided with practical and real-life advice about the kinds of support these individuals need. Often, simply by explaining why certain recruitment processes are ineffective, businesses are able to recognise the value ex-offenders can offer their business. Particularly in cases where applicants have completed courses in construction skills in prison or the community, employers are able to select individuals who are not only motivated for work, but have relevant experience and qualifications.

It did so much to keep me moving on the same progressive path. It's given me even more self-confidence. My family are really happy I've done so well and tell me every now and again where I came from and to continue to keep at it. they all think I'm hard working and I'm proud of that fact.

The expertise of each partner organisations is highly valued, as all the services they offer help to ease the transition into employment for those involved. For instance, Bounce Back offers Construction Skills Certification Scheme training, helping ex-offenders gain their CSCS card to allow them to work on construction sites. The fact that Bounce Back is able to provide applicants with this resource means they can be totally work-ready by the time they meet with a prospective employer. Case management support is also being offered to each applicant, ensuring they feel fully supported throughout the process, which helps them to overcome any obstacles they face.

These organisations recognise that the only way to deal with the chronic skills shortages in construction is to create more inclusive recruitment processes. By delivering training in the most sought after skills, they are helping ex-offenders gain the qualifications necessary for careers in this industry. Not only this, but by working closely with employers, the Mind the Gap scheme is helping to address many common misconceptions within businesses about employing someone who has a criminal record. This will encourage employers to recognise the value, talent and determination that can be found amongst this population, demonstrating why everyone deserves the chance to succeed.