Prisons in Yorkshire have secured a £250,000 investment to start a construction academy at HMP Leeds which will aim to equip offenders with valuable skills ahead of release.

It will offer fully accredited qualifications to prisoners and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) believes that the offenders who graduate from the academy will help plug the skills gap in the sector.

The academy is due to open in February 2019, with prisoners working to get the building itself ready prior to that date. The project will be delivered in partnership with the charity Bounce Back, which already works with HMP Brixton to train prisoners for work in construction.

All skills training will be structured to take into account the average length of sentence, the need for continuity of learning, teaching of soft skills and tailoring the experience to meet the needs of the industry to ensure the best possible opportunity of employment outcomes post release.

Construction firm Amey’s CEO, Andy Milner, said: “At Amey, we believe in hiring the best people for the job, no matter what their background or history. For us, hiring ex-offenders is not only the right thing to do but it also makes good business sense.”

He, too, mentioned the growing skills gap in the industry and highlighted that, within the prison population, there is a pool of highly motivated people learning new skills, such as engineering, carpentry and plumbing, and who “just need someone to believe in them to help change their lives”.

Amey has a “Passport into Employment” programme in place as part of its prisons maintenance contract.

Last reviewed 11 December 2018