New prison officers joining HMP Oakwood near Wolverhampton are the first officers in the country to trial a nationally-developed ‘Trailblazer’ apprenticeship programme. The pilot will see new recruits coached and mentored through their first 12-months in the job. For the first time, this will result in a nationally-recognised qualification.
Ten new recruits and one existing officer at the facility, which is managed by security company G4S (and run in partnership with the Babington Group, which provides management training for those on the scheme), will be the first officers anywhere in the country to take part in the programme. They’ll be followed by 16 new recruits at HMP Birmingham.
The pilot scheme across both prisons will trial the new standards for prison officers, which have been developed by prison providers and experts from organisations across the country including G4S, the Ministry of Justice and other private providers and Government departments. The employer-led programme at HMP Oakwood and HMP Birmingham will be looked at closely by other prisons around the country.
Jane Shannon, head of organisational development for G4S custodial and detention services, explained: “This is the first time an employer-led qualification for a custody apprenticeship has been tested anywhere in the UK. We’re delighted to be blazing a trail in developing recognised skills and qualifications for people working in secure settings. Developing the right skills and training is vital in nurturing the next generation of prison officers and leaders. We’ll be looking closely at the impact of the additional training involved which focuses on the key skills that new officers develop in the early years of their careers, such as rehabilitation and conflict resolution, violence reduction techniques and teamwork.”
Shannon added: “With additional support and greater guidance for these new officers, we very much hope that those taking part in the pilot will flourish and have long careers in the custody sector.”
John McLaughlin, director at HMP Oakwood, stated: “The feedback from the initial sessions of the pilot has been fantastic, with managers explaining that they can see with great clarity the valuable support that this will provide new members of staff. Previously, new recruits would have a nine-week training course when they first joined and refresh their knowledge regularly throughout their career. The goal of the pilot is to have all new officers on this longer apprenticeship scheme to cement that knowledge, monitor progress and help to develop and guide them through the early stages of their career.”
A ‘Trailblazer’ (or employer-led) programme is made up of a group of employers who work together to design new apprenticeship standards for occupations within their specialist sector.
*Prison officers who complete this pilot and subsequent scheme will receive a Level 3 apprenticeship qualification, which is deemed equivalent to two ‘A’ Level passes