Local businesses were encouraged to consider offenders as employees at a breakfast function hosted by the Corrections Department yesterday.
More than 100 employers and stakeholders attended the event and heard from two employers and two former prisoners, now employed.
The Corrections director for offender employment and reintegration, Stephen Cunningham, said that since the breakfast series began vacancies had been listed and more employers were taking notice of what Corrections was doing to get people ready for the workforce.
The breakfasts scheme started in Wellington, Hamilton and Christchurch.
"It's encouraging to see commitment from employers. Having a job reduces reoffending and helps offenders lead a more crime-free life. Giving someone a second chance is not only good for them, it's good for the employer and good for the community."
At the breakfast employers heard that offenders could be eligible for a Starter Pack, which contains a contribution of up to $1500 to help reduce or remove barriers to offenders accepting a job. This fund could be used to buy tools, clothing, training or a bike to get to work.
Corrections has also renewed its Employment Support Services (ESS) contract, which helps offenders find employment after release from prison.
More than 500 former prisoners had already found work through the initiative, and others were being supported to help maintain their jobs, employers heard. The service would now expand to include all regions.
ESS offered a full package of support to prisoners and community offenders, including pre-employment preparation, help to find and secure a job, and then up to six months in-work support. In the past financial year 232 offenders were placed in employment.
A partial package was available for offenders who already had a job but might benefit from having six months' support to help them keep it. This enabled the employers to have a more stable workforce, Mr Cunningham said.
Corrections already employed eight offender recruitment consultants who matched vacancies to suitably trained and motivated candidates. In 10 months they had placed 583 people in work.
Mr Cunningham said to date 140 memoranda of understanding had been signed by Corrections and employers nationally, which would offer 1292 job opportunities. This includes 23 agreements with Hawke's Bay employers offering 113 vacancies.
Nationally, the placements covered a vast range of industries including construction, horticulture, hospitality, agriculture and manufacturing.