Employable skills, a good work ethic and a trade training qualification are some of the benefits prisoners are gaining from building houses in Rimutaka Prison.

The first house built by prisoners as part of their WelTec training was today lifted over the prison’s perimeter fence in Prison Director Viv Whelan, Chief Executive Ray Smith, Minister Chris Hipkins, Weltec Chief Executive Chris Gosling with Houseone piece by a specialist crane.

The house will be used in Lower Hutt for state housing by Housing New Zealand.

Rimutaka Prison Director Viv Whelan says it was a significant event.

“Today is an important milestone for Rimutaka Prison and everyone involved in the build.

“Not only is this the first house to be built in the prison, it also provides hope for a positive future for the men who built it, and for the family who will live in it.  The men now have practical, hands-on experience backed up with a qualification that will help them into employment on release.”

“Participating in quality education and gaining trade skills can reduce the likelihood of
re-offending,” says Ms Whelan.

Eight prisoners built the 3 bedroom, 113sq m house on site last year as part of their 34-week New Zealand Certificate in Construction Trade Skills programme delivered by WelTec. The programme is one of six trades training programmes available in the prison that lead to nationally-recognised qualifications.

WelTec and Whitireia Chief Executive Chris Gosling says “We are proud of our trades training delivery at Rimutaka Prison.  WelTec has been providing nationally-recognised trades qualifications at the prison for the last 10 years.

“With a trades qualification and improved literacy and numeracy skills students at the prison develop the skills to successfully engage in work on release and to be more resilient when faced with new challenges.”

The new double glazed and insulated house will provide a family with a warm and dry home in Lower Hutt, Jonathan Scholes, Housing New Zealand’s ‎Programme Director, Asset Development says.

“In the Hutt Valley alone we’re building up to an additional 300 houses over the next couple of years, so this initiative is something we welcome and we’re excited about the future opportunities it offers. We are now working with WelTec to formalise our relationship,” says Mr Scholes.

Education Minister Hon Chris Hipkins, WelTec and Whitireia Council members, and representatives from Housing New Zealand were on hand to see the lift, and later toured the prison’s trade training workshops where WelTec delivers training to prisoners in plumbing and gas fitting, and painting and decorating.

A second house is in the early stages of construction by a different group of prisoners.

In 2017 WelTec delivered trades training to almost 150 men at Rimutaka Prison who were ready to take on the challenge of gaining a qualification through the School of Construction.

Prisoners achieved the following qualifications:

* Level 3 New Zealand Certificate in Construction Trade Skills (Allied Trades and
Carpentry)

* Level 3 Certificate in Pre-Trade Plumbing and Gasfitting

* Level 4 Certificate in Applied Decorating Skills

* Level 3 Certificate in Foundation Studies (Plasterboard Preparation and Finishing)

* Level 3 Certificate in Foundation Studies (Painting)

* Level 2 NCEA – Construction and Infrastructure Vocational Pathway; or

* Level 3 Certificate in Brick and Blocklaying

For around 42% of Rimutaka learners it was their first year participating in tertiary education, and an opportunity to open up doors to new employment prospects and develop valued skill sets to help them succeed in their workplace, to support their whānau and make a positive contribution in their community upon release.

WelTec tutors teach technical skills in the prison workshops supported by Corrections’ custodial officers.

The courses that prisoners complete and the qualifications gained in prison are the same as the external programmes delivered by WelTec in the community at Petone.

In the last financial year 3,894 qualifications were achieved by prisoners nationally. Just under 2,000 prisoners participated in trades training.

Reducing re-offending is Corrections’ top priority and by helping prisoners to earn skills and qualifications, it could help them gain employment on release. Research shows that getting a sustainable job can reduce the likelihood of re-offending and help create safer communities.