Governors will be able to commission education and training programmes that provide skills tailored to the local labour market, giving them the real-world skills necessary to find a job.
A vocation route, the Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway, will offer a way to deliver training in custody with guaranteed jobs on release.
The strategy also aims to increase the number of prisoners taking on work in custody – 11,000 are currently employed internally across 300 organisations – while a consultation is being launched on how to get risk-assessed prisoners working on temporary licence today.
A new body, the New Futures Network, will work side-by-side with employers to generate new job opportunities.
“I want prisons to be places of hope and aspiration that propel offenders into employment, and ultimately help to reduce the number of victims of crime in the future,” said Gauke.
“I believe passionately that through work, people can turn their backs on crime and start a new chapter in their lives. Today’s announcement should signal to offenders that we will reward good behaviour and hard work with opportunity, and to employers that ex-offenders can make a positive contribution to their workforce, society and the economy.”
The launch comes two months after the Ministry of Justice ended funding for the National Careers Service’s education programme in UK prisons, a move that was described as a “crushing blow for an already overburdened and underfunded prison system” by Prisoner Learning Alliance chair Tom Schuller.
But the Justice Secretary’s plans have been met with approval from Prisoner Education Trust chief executive Rod Clark.
“Giving governors greater control over prison education, making more use of day release and incentivising employers through a National Insurance holiday are all important steps to transform prisoners’ lives and help them contribute to their families and communities,” he said.
“However in order to work, this strategy must be backed up by the necessary financial investment. Prisoners must also have careers advice and access to technology in order to develop the digital skills nearly all jobs these days require.”