Logistics firms, including DHL, are participating in a recruitment drive in 30 prisons across England and Wales, which aims to hire ex-offenders to help plug the industry's skills gap.

The event, dubbed Unlocking Retail and Logistics, involves an array of blue chip companies including DHL, The Cooperative, Iceland, Oliver Bonas, and Greggs.

The campaign is part of a wider drive by the government to get more prison leavers into work as evidence shows it grows the economy and cuts crime.

According to government statistics, ex-offenders in full time employment are up to 9% less likely to reoffend when released and more than 90% of surveyed businesses who employ prison leavers report they are motivated, have good attendance and are trustworthy.

Announcing the scheme, Prisons Minister Damian Hinds said: "There is a golden opportunity right now for companies working to fill vacancies by taking on prison leavers. Not only does it help grow the economy but it is proven to cut crime.

"Over 90% of businesses employing prison leavers report they are motivated and trustworthy - making them prime candidates to plug some of the current skills gaps in the UK."

One of the businesses involved in the campaign is O’Neill & Brennan, a recruitment and logistics solutions business to the construction industry. The company has helped around 180 prison leavers into employment with its scheme in the last two years and currently employ over 60 prisoners released on temporary licence to work on-location each day.

Barry Mitchell, O’Neill & Brennan logistics operations director, said: "There is a lack of skill and talent in the industry currently and we are finding that there is a huge gap in the retail and logistics sector, particularly in entry level roles.

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"By working directly with prisons, we are engaging with new and exciting talent early, so that when they reach us we are employing skilled and job ready people who have already been trained in custody.

"The attitude and hard work prison leavers put into their job, and their desire to change their past and prove themselves, means that they are dedicated and motivated employees."

O’Neill & Brennan pointed to one employee, identified as John, who was employed by the business following his release and has worked his way up to a supervisor, taking the role of logistics manager when needed.

John said: "Having employment secured ahead of my release really grew my self-confidence and gave me hope that I would be given a second chance to prove myself.

"I am a real-life example of how you can turn your life around if given the right opportunities, and it feels rewarding to encourage others to explore a similar route."

This latest campaign is part of a wider strategy named Unlocking Potential, run by New Futures Network. It aims to create a culture of employment in prisons, following the publication of the 2021 Prisons Strategy White Paper.

Other initiatives include the Ministry of Justice's recent launch of dedicated Employment Advisory Boards in 92 prisons , which link prisons to leading businesses so they can receive advice on their employment strategies.

Recent government statistics show that the proportion of prison leavers finding work within six months of release more than doubled between April 2021 and March 2023, from 14% to over 30%.