Retail giant Halfords is urging other businesses to help women prisoners train for jobs after announcing that a scheme it has been running for two years has been a big success.
The Halfords Academy at HMP Drake Hall in Staffordshire offers women the chance to train as cycle mechanics.
Former drug addict Leigh Bolton, 44, went on the programme and has now been working at Halfords for more than nine months.
She credits the scheme for giving her a chance to change, saying it had helped turn her life around.
“It changed my life, my future and how other people see me,” she said. “I had no hope for the future. I didn’t think I was going to be selected as there was a competition for places.
“It was heartening to see someone investing their time and efforts into you. While we were studying at the workshop, we were treated as people, not prisoners. It really helped.”
She now works as a cycle technician for Halfords in the West Midlands.
Halfords said those on the programme were subject to the same standards of training as others, giving them the chance to work on cycles that need to be reconditioned.
Andy McBride, from Halfords, says: “The Halfords Academy at Drake Hall offers participants the opportunity to train as cycle mechanics with the prospect of steady employment and a chance to put their past firmly behind them when they come out of prison.
“The programme is tailored for each participant with an added focus on mechanics, customer services or retail.
“Fully supported by Halfords colleagues, participants are subject to the same high standards of training as colleagues in our Halfords shops.
“The training programme is thorough and is designed to challenge participants and raise their aspirations.”
The cycling retailer said it was encouraging other businesses to run similar schemes, believing it could reduce women’s reoffending.