'I want to change and better myself' - Employers urged to give former offenders a second chance

By Jessica Tyson

Employers were urged to give offenders a second chance at a careers expo held at the Auckland Region Women’s Corrections facility today.

As part of the Second Chance Career Expo, potential employers and education and training agencies were on-site to inform the women on further education and career opportunities.

Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) program facilitator Leanne Rose says they have brought women in from correctional facilities in the past.

“I believe employees need to realise that these ladies have something to offer to society and themselves as well ... to build their own self-confidence and quality of life again," says Rose.

“We've had women that have been released come through into our programs because we've got a really good support group behind them.  It doesn’t matter how young or old those students are or where they come from, our job is to nurture them through that training and to get them back into the workforce.”

One offender says there are many challenges with regard to finding work.

“After being in here for so long, the biggest challenge is 'where to after here?'  How do we get there, being judged for being on parole, being limited and how does the process work out?”

Another woman said, “When you tell people you've been to prison, I’m worried that they're just going to close the door on me, because I really want employment, I just want to change and better myself."

The expo today was part of the This Way to Work programme which started in November 2016.  Since its establishment more than 3,000 offenders have been placed into employment across New Zealand.

According to Corrections, on average, over the last 12 months, 66 percent of community-based offenders have been placed in jobs and about 30 percent of released prisoners have been placed in jobs.

Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis says the expo will help prisoners develop a career path and gain skills, qualifications and work experience to help secure a better future for themselves.

“Today’s expos are about showing prisoners that there are employers out there willing to hire someone with previous criminal convictions and give them a second chance," says Davis.

“This gives them a much better chance of securing employment and safely transitioning back into their communities.”

One woman at the facility today says she has benefitted from the expo.

“My ultimate goal would be to never come back to prison, to build a better future for my children and I would like to teach them and to give them what I never had.”

The next Second Chance Career Expos will take place at Whanganui Prison on September 5 and Otago Corrections Facility on October 29.