As a young teenager, ‘Mike’ worked in a groundwork crew carrying out labouring jobs and working his way up to more skilful tasks like drainage, laying footpaths and paving.
He also learnt to plaster and tile, picking up lots of general building skills along the way. Mike was at the point of becoming self-employed and taking on landscaping work, when he suffered an industrial accident, which led to him losing sight in one eye.
The accident had a devastating impact on Mike's life, leaving him withdrawn and nervous about mixing with people. He became isolated and reached his lowest point, which culminated in a custodial sentence.
Despite Mike’s impressive practical experience in the construction industry, he, like almost half of offenders, did not have any formal qualifications before entering prison.
During his custodial sentence, he began learning on a Level 2 Bricklaying course with Novus. Speaking about his prison learning experience, Mike said:
“The course was perfect for me. It has helped me tremendously – the learning environment is pleasant, and the instructors relay their skills and experience whilst giving me a massive amount of encouragement. They allow everyone to learn at their own pace.
“My confidence is returning, and I have achieved the qualification I set out to get – the first academic recognition of my life. It will broaden my work horizons when I am released, as I will now have the opportunity to gain the CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) card, allowing me to work on construction sites as well as carry out domestic and residential work.”
How Mike rebuilt his life with Novus's Bricklaying programme
Mike still works in the Bricklaying workshop as a Peer Mentor. His role has helped him to continue to develop his skills whilst helping new learners adapt to the course and the workshop routine.
“I take so much pleasure from seeing the training fall into place” he said, “and watching the other learners take as much pride from their work as I do from mine.”
Mike’s work as a peer mentor has given him a new found confidence and improved his social skills. He now feels he can handle the kind of work/life situations which he would have struggled with in the past.
The Novus courses are an invaluable way of improving confidence, mixing with new people and gaining work skills and qualifications.
Impact of vocational training on ex-offenders
Mike's journey from learner to Peer Mentor showcases the transformative ripple effect of vocational training. Peer mentorship not only aids personal development but creates a supportive community, an essential component in the reintegration process.
This highlights the importance of the work done by Novus; by providing vocational training and employability skills, our learners are provided with the means to seek a new, positive path post-release.
Put simply, prison learning acts as a second chance for tens of thousands of ex-offenders, fostering positive change and enabling a fresh start for those seeking to rebuild their lives after incarceration.