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Prison to focus on providing job skills

Stamping out the cycle of unemployment and re-offending by improving offenders' skills and qualifications will be a "key purpose" of the prison service under reforms planned by education ministers.

Skills minister Phil Hope said he wanted to see "employers engaging with the prison service, providing training while people are in prison and then guaranteeing them a job at the end of it".

The prison service must aim to make acquiring the skills to get a job a priority because employment reduces re-offending, he said.

The reform programme will be published by the Department for Education and Skills, the Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions.

In March, a report by the education and skills select committee in the House of Commons called for better integration of education, training and work regimes in prisons. It is due to appear in a green paper later this year.

The report highlighted the Young Offender Programme run by National Grid, which delivers industry-standard training to prisoners linked to job opportunities in the gas industry on their release.

It has trained more than 140 offenders so far and succeeded in cutting re-offending rates to just 7 per cent. The programme is being introduced in 15 prisons.

More than 50 companies have attended briefing events on the scheme, with commitments received from the engineering, construction, transport and utility sectors.

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