With OLASS 5 set to kick off shortly, those of you who are involved in the provision of offender learning will no doubt already be thinking about the sorts of things that you will be including in your bid for the new contracts. Since it is widely expected that the procurement process will broadly follow the recommendations set out in the Government’s 2016 White Paper, Prison Safety and Reform, the start point for thinking about this should surely be to remind ourselves what was contained in that report.

One of the big focusses of the White Paper was that of bringing offending rates down by doing more to help offenders gain meaningful employment upon release. A key part of the way that this can be achieved, according to the report, was to devolve a far greater degree of empowerment of education and training provision to prison governors, in order that they can ensure that what is taught in their prison is aligned with the needs of employers in their region. This should give offenders a better chance of gaining employment when they leave since most of them will finish their sentences in the area where they will then live.

For governors, this means that they will have far more responsibility to ensure that skills provision in their institution is aligned with labour market demand. But it also means that providers of offender learning will need to demonstrate that they have a good grasp of the needs of employers in the prison areas which they serve, and that they can tailor their provision with this local demand. The Prison Safety and Reform White Paper is very explicit about this:

“Giving governors greater autonomy over decisions made in prisons will allow them to target training and work in prisons to match more closely the needs of the local labour market.”

For any provider of education and training for prisons, this raises the question of how this can be achieved, both at the bid stage and in the delivery.

A big part of the solution should be the use of granular Labour Market Insight (LMI), since this is the most effective way of determining the needs of local and regional employers. But notice the emphasis on granular. It is not just data, as such, that can solve this problem, but rather granular data – by which I mean insight that can identify specific industrial and occupational needs at the level of the prison region. Once again, Prison Safety and Reform is explicit on this point:

“Governors will be encouraged to work with local employers and use data on the local labour market gaps to choose the right vocational training to help offenders into employment…”

Since this is likely to be such a critical factor in the OLASS 5 process, we have written a short guide to help you understand how local LMI can really help you to frame your bid and delivery. Offender Learning Reform – Labour Market Insight for Bidding and Beyond includes:

• How LMI will be crucial to success and why it must be localised LMI
• An example of localised insight from the HMP Winchester region
• A Foreword from Rob Mills, the Specialist Education & Justice Advisor who led the LMI project as part of the Coates Review into Prison Education

You can download a copy of the guide for free here.

Alternatively, we also ran a webinar in December looking at the same issues, which you can view on our YouTube channel here.

Andy Durman is Managing Director of Labour Market Insight specialists, Emsi. He can be contacted at andyd@economicmodelling.co.uk.