Entrepreneurs Unlocked: David Morgan’s mission to upskill ex-offenders

Local News 11 Aug 2022

Find out how FSB member David Morgan, founder of Entrepreneurs Unlocked CIC, delivers work-ready sessions and entrepreneurship programmes to help prison leavers thrive on the outside.

People released from prison having ‘done their time’ and paid their ‘debt’ to society, more often than not end up back inside. The UK figure is depressing, somewhere between 35-65% re-offend within 12 months of release– and the younger they are the more likely this is to happen. It actually poses wider questions around our current prison reform model.

FSB member David Morgan

As a former prison education tutor and self-employment lead David Morgan knows it’s critical ex-offenders – if they are to be true to that title – are given the chance to flourish on the outside, leave their life of crime behind them, and start putting back into society as benefactors and not beneficiaries.

David, before becoming self-employed, had years of in-house prison service reform work under his belt, delivering work-ready sessions along with self-employment and entrepreneurship programmes in prisons right across the UK. His work ultimately helped people with convictions plan for a better future on the outside.  

But in 2019, with the start of the new Prison Education Framework contracts and a focus on the core curriculum subjects of maths, English, IT and vocational training, David’s role became redundant.

With little deliberation, David made the jump from employed to self-employed, and Entrepreneurs Unlocked was born, delivering now for himself what he’d for many years been delivering for the prison service. And it wasn’t long before he was back behind bars – in a good way – to deliver his version of entrepreneurship training.

“There are really two types of work programmes in prisons,” explains David. “The first is around the provision of skills to help prisoners actually find work on the outside, but this largely requires working with businesses that take a more open view to convictions, and they aren’t that common. They’re also typically where there are already skills shortages: agriculture, hospitality, retail, construction is always a big one, and increasingly now, warehousing and logistics.

“But it’s still a challenge to make it work, despite the current job market, particularly if they don’t want to go into that line of work which they might see as low skill and low wage. Statistically speaking, they are less likely to re-offend if you can get them on this type of programme, but it’s intensive and everyone involved needs support, including the employer. But once you can get them over the first three to six months they can become a really valuable employee, and the longer they do it the more chance of success.

“The other path open to them – which is what I now concentrate on – is teaching them how to be their own boss” explains David. “Some of the people I coach would find it difficult to work for an employer, and so this is the ideal solution and some of them are a great fit for it.”

David explains there are three types of person he tends to work with: “The first are those who’ve never worked but have learned skills such as carpentry and gardening in prison,” he explains.  

“The second are those who can’t go back to the jobs they had previously because of their conviction – more common for those from banking or legal professions. They’re highly trained in a specific field but lack skills in areas such as social media or dealing with HMRC.

“The third is those who are, let’s say, good at selling things. These tend to be the real entrepreneurs, they’re good at marketing, finance, networking, selling products, but it’s always been illegal products before. If I can harness that talent and convince they can earn an income they are really keen to look at how that can be done. They don’t want police or probation services chasing them.

We asked of the three, which are the most likely to have success as entrepreneurs.

“So I work with all the different groups; some need confidence, some are full of confidence but need to know how to do it legally. Some just need encouragement. But the ones which have the best successes are, I find, are the group three guys, because they’ve got the skill sets, although they don’t always know it. I actually find them really interesting as they teach me a lot about business from another side. It’s really quite fascinating.”

But the journey doesn’t end there for David’s learners. They have to go on to make a living from their new line of work, and as all self-employed know – whatever their background – it’s a hard slog but rewarding all the same.

David is now in the process of setting up a special event for Global Entrepreneurship Week in November at HMP Thorncross in Cheshire. Watch out for more details of this event and how you might be able to help.

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