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05 Oct 2022

East Midlands Chamber chief executive appointed as chair of HMP Sudbury’s employment advisory board

One of the region’s most prominent business leaders is helping to bridge the gap between employers and prisoners after being appointed to a key position.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles is now chair of the newly-formed employment advisory board at HMP Sudbury Prison, in Derbyshire.

The 12-person board helps to develop work and training opportunities for prisoners, establish partnerships with local businesses, and invest in projects that will support their progression into long-term employment once they return to the community.

The Chamber’s director of resources Lucy Robinson is vice-chair of the board, which also includes business leaders from organisations including Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, Blueprint Interiors, Cosy Direct, DPI UK, New Futures Network, PPL PRS, Qinesis and The Alternative Board.

Scott said: “It’s a great privilege to be asked to lead the new employment advisory board, which has a crucial role to play both for society and businesses.

“We want to ensure prison leavers are given the tools they need to re-enter the community and make a meaningful contribution via a long-term job.

“At the same time, businesses are grappling with a skills shortage that is severely hampering their growth prospects, with four in 10 East Midlands businesses that attempt to recruit struggling to fill vacant roles.

“With the region’s unemployment rate at a record low of 2.4% amid a rising number of people leaving the workforce, businesses now need to widen their labour pool via inclusive recruitment strategies that tap into people from all backgrounds, including prison leavers.

“Some of our members have already started to do this and are hugely enthusiastic about the contributions they make because these individuals are very keen to make a new start, and will show great loyalty to the organisation that gives them a chance.”

Businesses offering employment to prison leavers

HMP Sudbury, a Category D men’s prison based near Ashbourne, had on average 576 prisoners at any one time between January and December 2021.

About 160 of its current population is in regular, full-time paid work at 35 local, national and international businesses, which advertise roles via an employment hub within the prison that also supports with application forms and facilitating interviews. Companies include GXO, Scott Group, W H Ratcliffe, Clipper Logistics, The Bennie Group, RMF Construction.

Many of these employers offer additional training, such as forklift licences or construction tickets, and all offer jobs on release. There are often opportunities for progression within organisations to supervisor and management roles.

To join the outwork scheme, prisoners must meet a number of criteria, such as completing relevant education and risk assessment courses, and having good work attendance during an internal placement in the prison.

To date, 67 Employment Advisory Boards (EABs) have an appointed chair, with ex-offenders working in a host of areas including construction, retail, catering and manufacturing.

The Government has committed to establishing 92 EABs in prisons by April 2023. Since the launch of EABs in 2021, 4,000 ex-prisoners are in steady employment six weeks after leaving prison.

Employment is one of three golden threads to successful rehabilitation

Craig Smith, governor at HMP Sudbury, said: “In my experience, there are three golden threads that enable any individual leaving prison to remain out of prison – a place to live, contact with family and friends, and employment.

“Employment offers a wage, dignity, purpose and hope to succeed within the community. I firmly believe that by offering these golden threads, we will succeed in rehabilitating and ensuring we start to reduce our prison population.

“The employment advisory board is vital in offering HMP Sudbury the chance to provide these goals.

“Scott is ideal to lead this with his knowledge, experience and connections via East Midland Chamber. I appreciate his honesty, directness and innovative thinking, and I am delighted he is the chair of the board.”

Any businesses interested in creating employment partnerships with HMP Sudbury should contact Louise Duke on