I had been unemployed for a year, since shortly after receiving my sentence of two years’ probation for common assault, some 18 months previously.
This was my first conviction, and the subsequent ramifications of having a criminal conviction became evident as I applied for positions that my experience and skills could be utilised – working with people and administration. However, I was not successful at interview and often not called for interview, despite significant relevant experience. So, I embarked on training through South West College – Business Administration and Management. I spoke with my probation officer who put me in touch with NIACRO for employment support.
NIACRO explained to me that employers were often apprehensive, understandably, about taking on people with an unspent criminal conviction. I was willing to carry out work experience to support my education in Business Administration. NIACRO reviewed my CV and using their contacts through companies who are committed to supporting offenders, my CV and disclosure was passed to Fox Contracts’ Social Impact Manager (SIM).
Within a couple of weeks, the SIM at Fox Contracts telephoned me and agreed to meet me off site at a local location for coffee. She explained what was available in terms of employment. We discussed job roles, and potential for advancement and re-education with the company. I negotiated hours that would suit my current status in line with my evening classes, travel, and caring responsibilities. We agreed a visit to the office, and some work experience days to allow for meeting staff, settling in and understanding the role. It was very important to the SIM that I felt comfortable and capable with the work offered.
I very much enjoyed attending to a regular work routine again, being part of a large, family run organisation who were evidently professional, committed and enthusiastic. Very quickly I felt part of a team, sharing an office with others who were helpful, friendly and supportive. Carrying out my duties gave me a sense of achievement and increased my self-esteem. My confidence is growing as I settle into the new learning of what is becoming a diverse role. My skill base increases daily not only with knowledge of the construction industry, but also in practical support and application of my current education.
As a person with a conviction, it was frightening to feel isolated from my community and frustrating to have my background of experience and skills overlooked. To be offered work experience, then paid employment was wonderful, providing me with a place to develop my skills, learn new skills, participate in teams and gain an income. I am very grateful to Fox Contracts for this opportunity, and I endeavour to demonstrate my commitment through my enthusiasm and high performance.
Working in partnership with NIACRO we have established a unique working relationship delivering employability skills, trials for work and employment opportunities. From here, we have successfully appointed an individual with an unspent criminal conviction. For us, employing such an individual, in line with The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act Northern Ireland 1978, is about giving people a fair chance at a stake in society, based on their skills and abilities and not excluding them at the outset.
We have supported financially and resourcefully the opportunity for this individual to partake and successfully complete Nebosh General Certificate. We are extremely proud of our successes to date, making a genuine difference and changing lives socially and economically.
Our ethos is to be completely inclusive and to support those who come from the hardest to reach groups. With the construction industry in the midst of a skills and labour shortage it makes good sense to seek out new talent pipelines. We believe there is a need to address any restrictive or negative attitudes towards people with convictions now more than ever.
Working alongside Fox Contracts has been a positive and seamless experience for NIACRO.
This forward thinking employer has followed a best practice model and believes in rehabilitation and people’s ability to move forward to build a positive future. The company has been non-judgmental and shown understanding and acceptance of those with a conviction and can see the benefits of taking on the best person for the job based around their skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience. They have been flexible and listened to our client’s needs therefore making their adjustment and transition journey back in to employment a very positive experience.
We look forward to working with the company again in the very near future.