Prisoners train for pub kitchen jobs ahead of release

Prisoner Kirt, training to be a chef
Kirt want to be a role model for his daughter

Prisoners in Peterhead are training for jobs in pub kitchens ahead of their release.

The training at HMP Grampian is led by professional chefs with lessons on food preparation, kitchen maintenance, time management and teamwork.

Individuals who participate, after passing a suitability test, gain qualifications in hospitality and an offer of employment.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) believes it will reduce reoffending rates and help prisoners successfully reintegrate into their communities.

Kirt hopes that his kitchen training will lead him towards a better life.

The 30-year-old father is due to be released in just over three months.

He admits his life has been filled with “ups and downs” but he believes the future is bright.

'I want stability'

"A lot of people in this situation they don’t actually have any sense of direction when they get out," he said.

"With this, we’ve got the opportunity and the job proposition there.

"I want stability in my life. I want change.

"I’ve got a young girl and I just want to be a good role model for her. Someone for her to look up to."

Tomatoes being chopped
The prisoners hope to use their new skills upon release

The course is run by the pub chain Greene King, which has committed to hiring 300 released prisoners across the UK by 2025.

Gemma Patterson, a manager at one of the firm’s venues in South Lanarkshire, is part of a team of professional chefs leading the training.

"Certainly when I first started, I probably had thoughts about prisons," she said.

"Meeting everybody within the environment has completely changed my perceptions.

"They just want to get a job when they get out, they want to work and they want to do well.

"If this programme is going to help them then, by all means, let’s give them a chance."

'Realise their potential'

Leanne Duncan, the offender outcomes unit manager at HMP Grampian, said: "We are delighted to be working partnership with Greene King and the Aberdeen City Employability team to offer the people in our care this fantastic training course.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people in prison have never been given the chance to realise their own potential, to enhance their skills or to move on to full time employment on release.

"We hope other employers see how positive a partnership this is and are as forward thinking as Greene King; there are huge gaps in the labour market and we have lots of people in our care with the potential to fill them."

Graham Briggs, Greene King’s head of apprenticeships and employability programmes, said the firm carried out checks to identify prisoners who could benefit from the training academy.

He added: "There are a number of precautions, policies and processes to make sure that we are selecting the right individuals to go through the programme.

"We have to maintain that element of safety for our customers and team members."

Justice Secretary Angela Constance described the initiative as a "positive example of the work that goes on to support and encourage rehabilitation and successful reintegration".