It was all about second chances and opportunities at Whanganui Prison's Staircase to Success careers expo.

Local employers, education providers and work brokers met with around 40 prisoners and the prison's industry staff last week to see how they could support each other.

Creating relationships and partnerships with employers ensured they were on the same page when pairing people in their care with training and support that would make them good employees on release, prison director Reti Pearse said.

"We know that people with education and training who are in sustainable work are less likely to offend. However, for many, having a criminal history and limited education makes it difficult to find a job," Pearse said.


The prison offers employment opportunities and teaches the men relevant skills that are in demand, such as BCATS level 3, working at heights, scaffolding and forklift driver's licences, Growsafe and NZ Certificate Horticulture level 2.

During the expo, the employers and prisoners were split into two groups, with one group having face-to-face job interviews while the other group went with the prison industry instructors to see the industries.

Pearse said the employers were really positive about the way the men were prepared for interviews and interacted with them.

"To meet and talk with the men in our care in their work environment was seen as a very real-life situation that gave employers an understanding of what employment offers for skills and work ethic development, teamwork experience and training."

As a result of the expo, seven men were offered jobs with Whitakers, Taranaki Pine, Gas and Plumbing, Traffic Safe and Naki Labour Hire.

Five of the offers are for "release to work" where the men will spend the day with their employer and then return to the prison. The other two job offers are post-release.

Due to the success of the expo, Pearse hopes it will continue in the future.

"The potential for positive change is enormously encouraging," he said.