Prison event highlights why giving a ‘second chance’ should be high up on the boardroom agenda

A national conference hosted by Solar Gates UK at their Kent head office, on 15th September to over 200 delegates has detailed how businesses have successfully adopted a more open approach to their recruitment and personnel cultures, to help give prison leavers a ‘second chance’ while benefitting their own business mission.

In an emotionally charged room, industry leaders from all sectors, including highways, railways and construction gathered to learn how some companies including Solar Gates UK, Timpson and Cook, approach the recruitment challenges by working with prison leavers and other people in recovery.

The Southern Prison Employment Conference 2022 organised by Solar Gates UK in association with the Timpson Foundation, New Futures Network and HM Prison & Probation Service has enabled delegates to better understand how companies that work with the prison service help tackle employment challenges while supporting reforming prisoners.

Over the last five years, Solar Gates UK, the leading manufacturer and installer of solar barriers and gates for the highways, construction, rail, commercial and education sectors, has led the way with its own ‘Second Chances’ programme, meaning 35% of its staff are either from prison ,addiction recovery or have problems with their mental wellbeing.

Delegates took part in a series of interactive workshops where they gained insight into how to integrate ex-offenders into their HR policy. They also got to hear from a selection of prison leavers with their life changing stories, to emphasise the need for organisations to give second chances.

James Timpson, CEO of Timpson opened the conference on live link and explained their story as a true equal opportunities employer with a simple and transparent recruitment model. They consider anyone and everyone for a role within the business, regardless of their background or history. This includes ex-offenders and other marginalised groups.

“‘We’re just so fortunate to have prison leavers in our business, if we didn’t have them in our business, our business wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful as it is,” he said.

Neil Sampson, MD of Solar Gates UK, presented a session on how hiring prison leavers can be a part of your business culture.

They also heard from Annie Gale, Head of RAW Talent at Kent-based food company Cook. Its RAW Talent Programme (Ready And Working), supports people who may have spent time in prison or without secure housing.

She added: “What a fantastic event!  This is what doing good business is all about – there is such potential in the room for profitable, serious businesses to impact our communities in a powerful and positive way.  It is really exciting to see so many others who are keen to take on prison-leavers.  It is not always straight forward, but we have never regretted a moment.  It is genuinely life-changing, and not just for our RAW Talents.”

Delegates also heard from the inclusive recruitment organisation in the UK-Bridge of Hope Careers.

James Fellows, Bridge of Hope “Today I saw a step change from an employer point of view. We talk to an awful lot of employers around inclusive employment and what I saw today was a question of should they do it, it was much more about ok, I’m in. How do I do it? And you can understand why when you saw the quality of the people who had been to prison, been through the process and now in employment, they were unbelievable.”

Neil Sampson, MD of Solar Gates UK said: “It was an honour to host this conference and play a small part in highlighting how working with prison leavers and others enables more people to be given the second chance they deserve and how this can easily be incorporated into the culture and recruitment policies of any business. It’s a situation where both the employee and employer wins.”

Companies that want to find out more or carry on the discussion, can attend the next in the series of events. Information can be found at:

To find out more information about any of the content presented at the conference and how it may positively impact your business, please visit,


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