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Mind the Gap 2020

Sophie O'Sullivan, about 4 months ago

Want to tap into fresh new talent? Ever wondered about what happens at employer events? Interested in collaboration? Read on.

In January, we attended a half day Mind the Gap employer event for built environment stakeholders.

2020 marks Nacro's 10-year partnership with Eversheds Sutherland, celebrating their outstanding work in reducing re-offending and forging pathways into meaningful employment. It was great to see lots of employers at the event who are new to inclusive recruitment and wanted to find out more about how they could open their doors to a new talent pool.

The Business Case

11.7 million people in England and Wales have a criminal record, which is 21% of our working population. The cost to the taxpayer has increased to £43,213 a year, or £118 a day, for every place at one of the 127 prisons in the UK - up nearly 6% in the past 12 months. Evidently there is a strong social and economic need for businesses to rethink their recruitment strategy.

The Event

The presentation event was kick-started by a talk from Jessica Mellor-Clark, head of Be Onsite and Mind the Gap. Be OnSite is a not-for-profit organisation founded by LendLease, who are industry leaders in urban regeneration. Impressively, one third of their employees are ex-offenders and on average they employ one person a week from disadvantaged communities. 95% of the people they employ do not reoffend.

Jessica highlighted the chronic skills and labour shortage in the built environment industry. This includes work in construction sites, but also a diverse range of roles from admin to tech, catering or surveying. Addressing the skills gap is not exclusive to construction; industry leaders in retail or hospitality also thinking innovatively about how to re-design a better work force.

I've got freedom and opportunities to make my life better.

-Be Onsite employee

Next up, Dominic Headley delivered a recruiting safely and fairly legal briefing. This was a whistle-stop tour of disclosure, policy and best practice. We would highly recommend attending a half-day training event for a more comprehensive look at a consistent and fair approach to disclosure, particularly for HR professionals. Please see our recent blog on disclosure training.


Key points:

According to the REC, the cost of failed recruitment or of one bad hire is £132K (2017). This includes associated costs to employers like additional training and staff sickness. It is economically important to review recruitment policy in order to have the best candidates to fill the role and also to avoid low retention rates.

Perhaps a shift in business culture may include rethinking old-fashioned policies like not hiring anyone with an unspent conviction or resigning an application form to exclude the tick box. Maybe an application form has an extra space for individuals to contextualise, share their circumstances and show progress since conviction.

Back to the Event:

After a short tea break, Maggie Walsh, founder and director of A Fairer Chance spoke about the business reason for employing people who may have made one mistake in the past but have a lot to offer.

A Fairer Chance are the first point of call people leaving custody and looking for work. This cohort faces multiple barriers. For example, 60% of young offenders have gone through the care system. In terms of an employer perspective, it is important to have continued support in place throughout an employee's time with the company. Long-term sustainable employment is key to improving retention rates such as mental health support, career development plans and additional training for upskilling. It is best to invest in your work force for maximum results.

Candidates are not employed as ex-offenders; they are employed because they are the best person for the job.

- Maggie Walsh, founder and director of A Fairer Chance

It was great to see HSS Hire at the event. Please see our previous video collaboration celebrating their outstanding work. They currently employ 21 ex-offenders, including candidates on ROTL. In 2018 their driver turnover was 60%. Since increasing their talent pool, they have successfully achieved higher retention rates alongside a myriad of other benefits.

For new employers who are apprehensive about tapping into a new talent pool, we would absolutely recommend partnering with leading organisations like A Fairer Chance who are able to help navigate the space and can advise you on what the best and most suitable prisons to contact in order to facilitate any recruitment projects. Mind the Gap events are crucial because it provides the opportunity for businesses to share their experience and resources and make long-lasting connections.


Kimberley McGinty, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at VCG group, discussed how to pitch to senior management. Impressively, VGC group's employees don't often have any absences! In 2019, they worked with 19 prisons, interviewed 168 candidates and successfully employed 32 people in full-time roles. Amazingly, they have a 0% reoffending rate! Kimberley also emphasised the opportunity available to candidates from entry-level roles to management- the possibilities are endless.

VGC is a founder member of theInfrastructure Employment Forum (IEF). There is an opportunity for employers to join. They must commit to attending industry events and providing 3 sustainable jobs to candidates (with a minimum requirement of 18 months).

Employers don't think that people coming from prisons are employable. Empower people in prison with a choice for their future and enable them to start a new life.

-Fran Findlater, Founder, Bounce Back

The final presentations were given by Fran Findlater, founder of Bounce Back, an innovator in providing construction skills training, and Chris Horton, operations director of Novus.

Novus are a leading large scale social enterprise who deliver education and rehabilitation support in prisons. They work with businesses to co-design employer endorsements, masterclasses, taster work experiences and the delivery of bespoke training. In the last year, they have helped 555 people work and over 200 of those people have gone into the construction industry.

Novus also focus on the delivery of softer skill training such as financial literacy and mental health. This is useful in the creation of a business culture where staff feel supported and able to verbalise what support they need to better assist them in overall job performance and employee satisfaction.

Novus help employers to make sense of the space they're working in and provide viable candidates. We need to be innovators about the support people who are furthest from the labour market need in order to access a job.

- Chris Horton, Operations Director, Novus

The Take Away

Mind the Gap 2020 was a brilliant success. Here at The Exceptionals, we really do recommend attending employer events. They offer a chance to a dip your toes in as a business and to learn from industry leaders about how to put practical steps in place in order to start hiring hard-working individuals. The benefits are worth it.