Greene King kitchen academy offers work lifeline to prisoners

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Kitchen recruits: all four participants have been offered employment at a Greene King pub following their release, pictured with Greene King's Assad Malic and Brian McKirdy, governor in charge at HMP & YOI Grampian (right)
Kitchen recruits: all four participants have been offered employment at a Greene King pub following their release, pictured with Greene King's Assad Malic and Brian McKirdy, governor in charge at HMP & YOI Grampian (right)

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Brewer and pub operator Greene King is giving prisoners a second chance by opening a kitchen training academy at HMP & YOI Grampian prison.

The partnership between the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), Greene King and Aberdeen City Council aims to improve people’s chances of successfully reintegrating into their communities upon leaving prison, reduce reoffending rates and help mitigate recruitment challenges for the hospitality sector.

The 12-week academy programme will allow people in custody to receive training in a replica Greene King kitchen from professional chefs.

Equipment for the kitchen was funded by Aberdeen City Council’s ABZWorks, which supports people living in the city to develop confidence, knowledge, skills or experience to help them attain employment.

HMP & YOI Grampian became the first training academy north of the border, following the initial conception of the programme at HMP Thameside in London.

Partnership working between SPS and Greene King, which is the largest pub operator in Scotland, began in 2022, when employability events were held for people in custody, which led to 18 individuals interviewed and offered employment.

Commitment to employing 300 ex-inmates

In 2022, the pub company and brewer committed to employing 300 people leaving custody across the UK by 2025.

Ministry of Justice research has shown people leaving custody with an offer of employment are less likely to reoffend than those without.

The training academy is the first time an external employer has provided prison-based training for direct recruitment of those at HMP & YOI Grampian.

Students are given the opportunity to attain SVQ accredited qualifications that are recognised across the hospitality sector.

Through a mix of classroom learning and practical sessions, they learn about food safety practices, kitchen hygiene and maintenance, allergens and Natasha’s Law, and the importance of time management and teamwork.

All four participants of the pilot course have been given an offer of employment in a Greene King establishment, following their release.

First mixed sex group

Following this success, the course has been extended for a further 12 months – with the next cohort being the first mixed sex group.

It is anticipated that in its first year, the training academy may see up to 20 individuals graduate into employment on their release.

On Wednesday 6 December, the first students graduated from the course in a ceremony in front of their family and friends, alongside senior representatives from SPS, Greene King, and Aberdeen City Council, and were each presented with their own chef’s aprons to use in their new roles.

Greene King chief communications and sustainability officer Assad Malic added: “Our Releasing Potential​ initiative aims to provide employment for people leaving prison and in 2022 we set ourselves a target of recruiting 300 prison leavers across the UK by 2025.

“Working collaboratively with HMP Grampian, the Scottish Prison Service and Aberdeen City Council to install a training kitchen has been a fantastic experience, which we hope can now be replicated in other prisons across Scotland.

“As the largest pub operator in Scotland, we see first-hand the important role pubs play in communities and initiatives like this further demonstrate how pubs can drive social mobility and support people in building long careers in hospitality.” 

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