Twelve prisoners working in the Rolleston Prison Construction Yard have become the first to earn a Level 3 Certificate in Construction Pre-Trade (High Work).

Over three months, the men have engaged in intensive theory and practical on the job training. To qualify they have demonstrated knowledge and competence in Health and Safety, Working at Heights, Scaffolding, First Aid, Truck Loading, Manual Handling, and Forklift operation.Working at heights.

The NZQA qualification certifies that the men are qualified to work at heights on both residential and commercial buildings. In addition to the construction industry, these skills are transferrable to many other jobs where scaffolding and heights work is required, including staging and support work.

“This course fits well with the range of building experiences and qualifications we offer in the Rolleston Yard and has been quite challenging for the men involved,” says Rolleston’s Assistant Prison Director, Grant Boore. “Over three months they have completed 13 days of intensive training and over 10 weeks work experience practising their new found skills.

“Our goal is to prepare men in prison for new futures and get them ready for jobs when released. The construction industry is looking for skilled, qualified and reliable workers, so that is exactly what we are producing.  Our graduates are keen to work, and training like this helps them gain the work ethic, aptitude and relevant skills to get an interview and hopefully, opens the door to employment and new opportunities for them.”Operating a forklift in the yard.

In the construction yard, men work on both house renovations and new builds. The Rolleston Construction Yard is a joint venture between Corrections and Housing New Zealand. It officially opened in 2013 in response to the Canterbury Earthquakes when Housing New Zealand needed to recover its social housing stock, and Corrections wanted a way to contribute to the rebuild of the city and help offenders achieve work skills and qualifications.

The Level 3 Certificate in Construction Pre-Trade (High Work) Certificate is delivered in the prison by Vertical Horizonz (VHNZ).

Duncan Bryant, VHNZ’s South Island Regional Training Manager says Vertical Horizonz are thrilled for the first graduates. “It’s fantastic to see the first cohort complete the Level 3 Construction Pre-trade Certificate. The focus was not only on worker safety but sought-after skills within industry. At Vertical Horizonz we pride ourselves on providing real training that saves lives. We are proud to be part of the department’s solution to better enable prisoners to find work on release.”

Tom*, one of the graduates, says he found the course really informative and appreciates that the instructors took the time to support participants who haven’t dealt with forklifts or worked at heights before.

“We do scaffolding here on site quite a bit and using forklift operation, working at heights and with my scaffolding skills all these things increase my opportunity of getting a job when I get out.”

Tom is readying for release from prison in the next six months and plans to work in ‘devanning’ or construction, where he will use many of his new skills. He says he has some experience with forklift driving, but through the course he learned new techniques which he hadn’t used before, and this will make his work in this area more efficient.

“The safety training is really important. You need to know what to do, especially with scaffold. You are responsible for people’s safety, not just your own, but everyone else who gets up there and the people below. It's essential people know what they are doing.”

“There are guys here who have been scared of heights, but you get them into scaffolding and building, and they see how safe it actually can be, they enjoy it, and a whole lot of job opportunities open up.”

Grant Boore says that what these men need now is a chance for them to use their skills on the outside.

“What we ask employers is to judge them on their abilities, not their criminal history, like any other applicant and give them a chance to use their training and commitment to support their families, work alongside other prosocial peers and to maintain a crime free life.”