Guest blog: Why I employed an ex-prisoner
Local Staverton employer KJ Thulborn has given two LandWorks trainees their first vital step back into employment. Managing Director Kevin Thulborn shares his experiences.
I knew nothing about LandWorks until I was invited to attend an event on the Dartington estate.
I got talking to project founder Chris Parsons about how vital jobs are to giving up crime, and the shortage of employers willing to offer work to ex-offenders. We hadn’t done anything like it before but it seemed like a good way to put something back into society.
We took on our first LandWorks trainee, Rob*, in August 2014. We thought, let’s run with it and see how it goes. Rob is still with us, and we have just recruited a second employee from LandWorks, Phil*, who joined us in September last year. They have slotted in well.
We’ve noticed a real change in Rob since he joined us. He was quiet when he started, but has opened up, come out of himself. He seems more confident.
KJ Thulborn is a local business, based in Staverton, with 130 permanent employees. We offer contracting and engineering services to the public, civil and highways sectors. Rob and Phil both went through exactly the same interview process that every other employee goes through, and had to pass the same drug and alcohol tests to ensure they are fit to work on the highways.
They are both what we would call general operatives, which involves roadside strimming and maintenance. Rob is also now being trained to take on traffic management responsibilities. They work a full week, sometimes days, sometimes nights.We’ve noticed a real change in Rob since he joined us. He was quiet when he started, but has opened up, come out of himself. He seems more confident.
I think LandWorks is a fantastic idea. It plays a vital role in getting ex-offenders integrated back into society. That first job is so important. Even if Rob and Phil don’t stay here, they have been given an opportunity to prove themselves and the next person who employs them hopefully won’t have any qualms about it.
In my experience you are just as likely to have problems with employers who are not ex-offenders. When we took on Rob it was, “OK, let’s give it a try” and it worked out well. So when Chris contacted me again I said yes. Just because someone has a criminal record doesn’t mean they are going to be trouble. It’s just as likely to mean that they will try harder as they have more to prove.
So what would I say to other organisations who may be considering taking on a LandWorks trainee? It’s either going to work or it’s not going to work and until you try it you are not going to know. I think if ex-offenders are willing to commit to LandWorks it shows that they are prepared to try and make a better future for themselves. The least we can do is to give them a chance.
* Names have been changed to protect their privacy.