218. 'Vocational training' is defined by the Prison
Service as "workshop activities where the primary function
is to provide prisoners with the skills and qualifications needed
for employment on release". The Service told us that vocational
training workshops and work areas offer a wide range of occupational
skills for the majority of prisoners.
However, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, was critical
of the state of vocational training provision across the prison
estate. She said that
"when we were compiling the material for
the Annual Report [2003-04]
we inspected 19 training prisons
whose functions should be focused on training, and in only five
of those did we find that there was actually enough of the right
kind of education and training happening. We found those that
were managing those resources well, and those that were managing
219. The Prison Service recognises that there are
"major issues" in relation to current inadequate provision
of vocational training. These include:
i. poor initial assessment, advice and guidance
leading to prisoners inappropriately placed on training courses.
ii. delivery of training at substandard levels
not valued by employers.
iii. delivery of training in occupational areas
where the chances of employment are poor.
iv. duration of courses not appropriate to the
length of stay of prisoners.
v. poor outcomes from training and few qualifications
220. The Prison Service has invested £4.5 million
over the past two years in upgrading vocational training workshops
across the prison estate.
From 2004, the Offenders Learning and Skills Unit (OLSU) in DfES
has taken over the budget for vocational training (ringfenced
at £12 million per annum).
The long-term objective is that as new arrangements are put in
place for delivering education in prisons, vocational training
will be incorporated.
221. Under the National Action Plan, OLSU is working
in partnership with the Prison Service Enterprise and Supplies
Services to introduce accredited training into prison industries
workshops through a pilot scheme in 2004-05. At regional level,
Regional Offender Managers will be expected to identify and enlist
employers to provide opportunities for offenders and ensure regional
skills gaps are targeted.
222. During our visit to HMYOI Aylesbury we visited
a motor mechanics training centre run by the prison in partnership
with Toyota. This is based in a fully equipped workshop where
young adult prisoners can obtain NVQ qualifications from Levels
1 through to 4. This training facility was praised by HM Chief
Inspector of Prisons following an announced inspection in 2003.
223. We welcome plans to integrate accredited
training into prison workshops. Nonetheless, the Prison Service
deserves criticism for having failed hitherto to remedy the core
defects that it has itself identified in its vocational training
programme. Vocational training workshops enable a more innovative
and integrated approach to education and work, setting training
alongside work opportunities for those prisoners who reject the
formal classroom model of education. We were impressed by the
well-equipped motor mechanics training centre at HMYOI Aylesbury,
jointly run by the prison and Toyota; but we note also the massive
gap between this and the standard provision that is available
in YOIs and in the prison estate as a whole. During our prison
visits, many prisoners told us that they attended particular classes
because they were the only ones available, not because they thought
they would help them get jobs.
224. We consider that the management of vocational
training by DfES provides the potential for a more holistic approach
to the delivery of education and skills.
225. We welcome the investment in upgrading vocational
training workshops and recommend that this should be sustained
to re-equip and modernise all workshop equipment. It is vitally
important that all vocational training workshops should be designed
to meet the relevant industry standard and provide recognised
qualifications or awards.
226. Without this investment, prisoners will be
trained on machines which are out-of-date in practices which are
no longer relevant in the modern workplace. Prisons with appropriate,
well-resourced workshops, in favourable locations and with medium-
to long-term prisoners are likely to be better able to attract
work contracts, provide a fuller working day and pay enhanced
or 'real' wages.