L&D program helps ex-offenders in the workplace

Project's manager reveals why helping former convicts learn skills and become leaders is good for business

L&D program helps ex-offenders in the workplace
In August, the Victorian Government has announced $1.5m of funding towards the YMCA Bridge Project, which is boosting skills for up to 1,500 people who are seeking sustainable work.

The funding will support programs providing training and mentoring for ex-offenders who are trying to readjust into society and find work.

Since 2006, the YMCA Bridge Project has helped more than 440 people find work, while more than 100 Victorian businesses have provided support and jobs to the program.

Prior to working with the Bridge Project, Mick Cronin spent four years at Drug & Alcohol where he worked with disadvantaged youth helping them deal with substance abuse.

At the same time, he also taught Certificate IV in Drug and Alcohol focusing on working with challenging behaviours.
In 2007, he started working as a casual case manager at the Bridge Project supporting young people in the justice system to find suitable training, education and employment.

Over the past five years his passion and commitment has helped many young people get their lives back on track.

Below, Cronin – who is now YMCA Bridge Project Manager - tells HRD about how the initiative got started, and how it is helping transform lives in Victoria.

HRD: Can you tell us a bit about how the project first ‘got off the ground’?

MC: In 2005, thirty-five Victorian CEOs, managers and influences came together to create Williamson Leadership Group. Within this group were two YMCA Victoria employees who were involved in delivering programs within select Victorian prisons. The primary focus of the Williamson Leadership Group was to plan, foster and implement innovative programs that positively impact the community.

The YMCA employees brought years of experience of observing and working with young offenders who were trapped in a devastating reoffending cycle once they left custody. The group voted to create a program that addressed impacted this community issue, and The Bridge Project was created.

The Williamson group then became the Bridge Council, and the YMCA Bridge Project commenced operation under YMCA Victoria.

The YMCA Bridge Project started off working with DHHS and engaging, assessing and matching young people in youth detention centres with businesses in the community.

HRD: In your view, what has been the most encouraging social impact that the project has had since its inception?

MC: Currently, the reoffending rate of young people who leave custody in Victoria is over 50%. The most encouraging social impact the YMCA Bridge Project has been able to achieve is that once a young person takes part in the YMCA Bridge Project, the reoffending rate drops to just 3%. This reduction has the potential to save the Victorian Government $2.5 million per year.

HRD: What kind of skills and training does the BEST program offer?

MC: The YMCA Bridge Employment and Support Training (BEST) is delivered to female and male offenders serving Community Correctional orders throughout Victoria.

The YMCA BEST program is nationally recognised as a Participation Pathways Certificate II and provides a holistic approach to preparing the participants for employment and everyday living. The eight-day program incorporates nine modules that address real-life skills such as budgeting, nutrition, goal setting, literacy, and how to apply for work. The YMCA BEST Program combines physical activity with classroom based learning to encourage participants to pursue leadership roles and better understand how exercise plays a role in both physical and mental health. 


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