Innovative prison-based hospitality training helps prisoners develop in demand skills

How The Right Course and City & Guilds are upskilling prisoners through practical experience and quality education.

10 April 2024

Prison leavers face many challenges upon release and finding stable employment can often be one of the most significant. The stability that a job can provide both financially and in terms of readjusting to life outside of prison is incredibly valuable but for many people the barriers they face can feel insurmountable. With many prison leavers having already been unemployed before their time in prison and a number having only limited or out of date qualifications, applying for and securing a job can be a huge obstacle to overcome.  

Prison-based hospitality trainingAt a time when labour shortages and skills gaps appearing across multiple industries in the UK, getting prison leavers into work is in everyone’s best interest but to do this successfully requires considered collaboration from every organisation involved in the prison system. By targeting sectors with the biggest skills and workforce needs and delivering high quality training and skills development opportunities, skills gaps can start to be closed, and prison leavers can improve their chances of finding employment.

Creating opportunities in hospitality and catering through practical experience

Delivering training in prison presents many challenges. With time and other resources often in limited supply, prisons, training providers and charitable organisations must be both creative and committed to find ways to promote meaningful skills development.  

One charity working to address these obstacles and help prepare prison inmates for life and work outside of prison is The Right Course. Focused on creating opportunities for prison leavers in hospitality and catering, The Right Course addresses both the barriers to employment that people face upon leaving prison and the labour shortage currently facing the hospitality sector.    

The aim of The Right Course is to provide meaningful experience that will give inmates the skills and knowledge they need to secure a job in the hospitality industry. By working with prisons to transform staff canteens into high quality restaurants, the charity can create an environment that replicates the kitchen and dining environments that inmates will be applying to work in after their release.  

By combining this experience with a wider programme of support including help with finding job opportunities for inmates after release, The Right Course have developed a holistic approach that has seen 72% of learners completing the programme and more than half of those released successfully securing employment. This approach is something that learners really value, especially in the case of M who completed the programme at The Escape restaurant at HMP Wormwood Scrubs. 

M was able to secure three job offers upon leaving prison before deciding to join the banqueting team at a Park Lane hotel as a Commis Chef, something he credits heavily to The Right Course: “The Right Course have always been supportive. From day one they guided me through the most difficult period of my life. They provided incredible training and sourced great employment opportunities. They provide great aftercare and are always available to talk if needed.” 

Getting industry-recognised qualifications

While the practical experience that The Right Course can offer is invaluable in terms of helping learners develop the technical and soft skills that will be expected of them in a hospitality position, it’s also important that they are able to receive formal training to support their development. By completing a qualification, inmates can deepen their understanding of the sector while also gaining certification that can help to demonstrate their skills and knowledge to employers. 

Prison-based hospitality trainingThere are currently more than 50 different City & Guilds hospitality and catering qualifications being delivered in prisons by trusted providers and with course content developed with industry experts and the recognition that the name carries in the sector, choosing qualifications from City & Guilds provided a number of clear benefits for learners involved in the programme.

The Right Course’s CEO Simon Sheehan explained that “City & Guilds courses greatly help to give structure and ensure they have a rounded knowledge needed for their next step. Learners work towards their qualification and have to learn to balance the formal side with the practical logistics of running the restaurant. They definitely get a sense of immense pride when they pass and get their industry recognised certificate. This complements the practical experience and behaviours we instil.” 

Looking forward

For The Right Course there is always more that can be done to support learners and Simon and the charity have plans for both expanding and deepening its provision. “As well as maintaining our current four training restaurants we are hoping to open three new restaurants this year and we are in discussions with a few different prisons. Ultimately, we want more of our graduates to secure employment upon release, so we are building our network of employers and increasing their interaction with our learners prior to release via our masterclass calendar.” 

With the right support from financial backers, training providers, government decision makers and the prison system itself, organisations like The Right Course can make a real difference to not only the lives of prison leavers but also the people in their lives, the employers they work for and those in their local communities.  

Find out more about The Right Course here

Read more about how City & Guilds supports skills development in prisons