Offploy | Offploy can ‘See Potential’, can you?
We manage the entire ex-offender employment process, from start to finish, enabling you to safely, fairly and confidently recruit and retain disadvantaged yet eager candidates with criminal convictions.
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Offploy can ‘See Potential’, can you?

When my 28-month sentence for a drugs offence was passed down, I really struggled to see myself as a ‘prisoner’.

Surely, I am not like the people I read about in the newspaper? Yet here I am in handcuffs.

Surely, I am not like the actors I see in the films? Yet here I am getting strip-searched.

Surely, I am not a prisoner? Yet here I am with the new identity of A6344DM.

Coming from being ‘Yorkshire’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ to a resident at Armley prison in the drop of a gavel was quite a shock to me. I didn’t really believe it could happen, but there I was.

My first two weeks inside were uncomfortable; I couldn’t find my feet and felt terrified of everything. It was truly, and some may say deservedly, isolating.

I eventually found routine in a job sewing boxer shorts for the prison estate. The environment was drab and the work was taxing, but at least it gave some purpose to the sentence. I didn’t really want to talk with anyone; I would only get myself into bother being the son of two police officers. However, ‘Jeff’ had other ideas.

He was the guy who quality assessed my freshly made boxer shorts… All 200 of them… Every day.

He told me that he would never have the chances I had in life.

He had never been to university.

He had never been to college.

He hadn’t even graduated from high school.

His mum left when he was young and his dad didn’t make life easy for him.

He has been in and out of prison since he was 16 (now aged 28) in order to feed his drug addiction.

He told me that he would never have the chances I had in life.

It was at this moment that it hit me… I was a prisoner – a prisoner just like Jeff. I should never have put myself in the position to end up there, not by his standards or by anyone else’s.

The more I spoke with Jeff the more I realised what an incredible work ethic he had (I mean, come on, he was quality assessing not just the products I made but the products of the four other guys on my line). He was responsible for the production and quality of 1000 units every day.

I remember one day ‘Steve’ was furious as Jeff sent a box of shorts back that weren’t up to his standard. Steve said, “Why does it matter? They are only going to go to prisoners anyway!”

Jeff replied, “It matters because it has our names on it, and I refuse to send out something that could make someone’s first night worse than it needs to be.”

Jeff was incredibly proud of the work he did, yet had never been able to hold a job down in the community. This was the first time I could see potential in the population we lock away from the public’s view. There are over 85,000 people in our prisons and 11 million people with criminal convictions in our communities.

As soon as I was released, I formed Offploy Community Interest Company to support large businesses to hire people with criminal convictions; people like Jeff.

Since our launch in April 2016, I am proud to say we have placed 23 amazing candidates into employment and have recently secured a contract to place 500 people with criminal convictions into a PLC – We are one of their answers to Brexit.

Offploy is supporting the client through the following processes: updating their policies; onboarding their existing staff; recruiting from prisons and the community; peer mentoring the people with convictions, and finally, reporting on the social impact the company is having from simply changing their mindset. Our team is managing the process from start to finish.

I am even more proud to say our team consists of a range of remarkable individuals including Ben and Imran, who we employed on their release from prison back in January 2017. I could see potential in them straight away and they stand testament to why employers should start looking to hire people with criminal convictions.

This is why we are supporting the #SeePotential campaign, the government initiative to support a range of socially excluded, yet incredible candidates into employment. The campaign is backed by Richard Branson, who wrote this great piece on how ‘everyone deserves a second chance’.

If you would like to find out more about employing people like Jeff, Ben or Imran please do get in touch here and be sure to visit https://seepotential.campaign.gov.uk/

The Offploy team pictured left to right: Ben – Employability Tutor, Jacob – Managing Director, Imran – Recruitment consultant and mentor.

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