Go beyond the gates ex-offender programme
‘Go beyond the gates’ is our programme to support ex-offenders into sustainable employment, helping them to live independently.
Reoffending costs the UK economy £15 billion a year. Ex-offenders who find jobs are much less likely to reoffend. By October 2019, VGC was employing 20 ex-offenders on our sites, one of whom had recently been promoted.
Finding work for ex-offenders near to release helps break the cycle of unemployment, homelessness and re-offending.
The need to employ a local workforce on major projects across the country is a considerable challenge for the industry. This initiative – part of our corporate social responsibility strategy – helps us to support some of the most vulnerable people in society and benefits everyone.
By providing opportunities for employment in a structured outdoors environment, we help the construction industry to tap into a huge labour resource.
Go beyond the gates works in four stages.
We connect with charities and social enterprise partners including BounceBack, MindTheGap, Key4Life, A Fairer Chance and Shaw Trust. They have supported us to understand the issues facing certain communities in deprived areas, like knife crime, and county lines. It is important that our teams understand the social context of candidates and the challenges they face.
CSR manager Kimberley McGinty and our labour managers attend employability events run in prisons – including HMP Brixton and HMP Norwich – and for probation services. They meet candidates and listen to their stories, experiences and aspirations.
If candidates want to be considered for a career in construction, we work with our partners to identify the type of mentoring that would be most helpful to them. We also arrange any extra support they may need before and after release.
We liaise with our clients who support the ex-offenders programme to identify suitable roles. As offenders approach their release date, we match them to job opportunities.
Ex-offenders who are released on temporary licence (ROTL) have the opportunity to gain work experience in a supported environment. They are able to keep a percentage of their wages to help them with a new start when they are fully released. For them, we work with the local prisons to make sure we handle practical considerations including curfew, transport and other restrictions.
Upon release, the candidates become VGC workers, with all the benefits of market rates of pay, holiday pay, pension contributions, and personal insurances. Only their mentors know their history; to everyone else, they’re just one of the team.
VGC is a founder member of the Infrastructure Employment Forum (IEF).
In autumn 2018, Costain, HS2 and VGC Group set up a new working group, the Infrastructure Employment Forum. This forum has started working across a number of major infrastructure projects with partners including High Speed 2, Crossrail, Thames Tideway and Highways England.
Together we aim to create more opportunities for ex-offenders to gain long term employment.
We visit and support 15 prisons across England, and reached over 930 ex-offenders in the first 10 months of 2019. Go beyond the gates candidates to date have a 0% reoffending rate.
Our work with fellow labour supplier Danny Sullivan Group to support ex-offenders into roles on HS2 won a collaboration award from Costain Skanska JV. CSJV head of legacy Louise Dailly presented the collaboration award at the HS2 enabling works supply chain forum on 14 May 2019.
We have signed up to Ban the Box.
Ban the Box is led by the charity Business in the Community (BITC). The campaign calls on employers to create a fair opportunity for people with convictions to compete for jobs.
We ban the ‘any unspent convictions’ box from the initial stages of our recruitment processes. Sometimes our clients need us to ask about unspent criminal convictions, for example when working in high security environments or with vulnerable people. In these cases, once we have identified good candidates, then we will ask about unspent criminal convictions, in a sensitive and supportive way.
Without a job, it is very hard for ex-offenders not to return to crime. Employing ex-offenders helps us by giving access to a more diverse talent pool, and giving people a second chance helps to reduce reoffending.