640 days ago
Robert Taylor has played an invaluable role at HMP Addiewell since joining in September 2015. As the prison’s employment coordinator, it’s his role to secure work opportunities for residents on release and he’s embraced the responsibility and helped to turn a failing department around. Robert was given a Sodexo Star of the Month award and has recently been nominated for the 2016 Butler Trust Awards.
Q. Tell us a bit about your career before you joined Sodexo.
A. I come from a military background having spent 23 years in the Armed Forces after a brief spell working as a metalworker in Glasgow when I left school. In 2012 I came back to Scotland and started working in the welfare to work arena for the first time. I joined Sodexo as employment coordinator in September 2015.
Q. What’s your remit?
A. First and foremost it’s about listening to people. I have to understand the individual needs of the prisoners and help them to identify where they want to get to. Then I can work to provide the training and opportunities to help them get there.
Q. How do you work with each individual?
A. It’s important not to force anyone into work: if they’re not ready, they’re not ready. It’s my job to help people identify their own goals – I call them ‘positive destinations’. It’s very much down to the individual to tell me, not the other way round.
Q. How do you then help them reach these destinations?
A. It might involve setting up some volunteer work first, for instance, or something part time. I’ve put a lot of focus on bringing local employers into the prison to meet with residents and chat to them about possible work opportunities. We now have links with both national businesses like Virgin Trains, and local companies including restaurants and a specialist furniture-maker.
Q. Is it difficult to get employers on board?
A. Not once you explain that we have lots of talented guys here. By inviting them in to see the activities in our music and art rooms for instance they can see it first hand. Addiewell is a training prison and our residents are involved in developing their skills in disciplines like woodworking and bricklaying too.
Q. How have you helped to improve the department’s performance?
A. I’ve had great support from the management team here. Because the department wasn’t reaching its potential I was given a bit of a blank canvas to change things. One of the things I was keen to do was reduce the amount of time the residents spent in classrooms, and make learning shorter and sharper.
Q. Do you find the job rewarding?
A. Absolutely, and it’s amazing when you see residents secure jobs when they’re released. One resident invited me to the restaurant he was working in, and cooked me lunch. It actually brought a tear to my eye. We have had a number of success stories like this and it makes it all worthwhile.
Q. What’s next on the agenda?
A. We’re currently talking to The Prince’s Trust about some volunteer places, so that’s an exciting development for the future.
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