Prisoners in County Derry are being given the chance to develop trade skills to help address a labour shortage in the metalwork industry.
Over 70 accreditations have now been registered at Magilligan Prison for vocation training, with five ex-prisoners actually getting jobs as a result of the initiative.
Prisoners at the Limavady facility are being taught Fabrication and Welding NVQ courses by North West Regional College (NWRC). The pilot programme offers training and qualification in Metal and Tungsten Inert Gas (MIG and TIG) welding, as well as Manual Metal Arc (MMA) and Oxyacetylene (OXY) welding.
Magilligan Prison Governor Richard Taylor said: “The welding courses at Magilligan have been very successful.
“Since January we’ve had more than 74 accreditations for prisoners in both Level 1 and 2 of the vocational training which is being provided. And five prisoners, on their release, have secured jobs as a result of the skills and qualifications attained.
“The metalwork courses, as well as 45 other fully accredited programmes of study at Magilligan, provide prisoners with a daily routine, constructive activity but also importantly an opportunity to take part in meaningful work which may eventually lead to a job once they leave the prison.”
He added: “The Northern Ireland Prison Service will continue to challenge people in our care and support them to change.
“Encouraging them through vocational skills will help them reintegrate when they are released, reducing the risk of re-offending.”
Dr. Damian O’Kane, at the NWRC, who is Head of Prison Education, said: “In collaboration with the Prison Service we have tailored our curriculum to respond to many of the key skills shortage areas within the N. Ireland construction industry.
“Students are encouraged and assisted to develop their knowledge and industrial skills and to obtain nationally recognised qualifications. As a result their employment opportunities and prospects are greatly enhanced.”
As of last week, there were 430 prisoners in custody at Magilligan Prison.