November 2018 – Malta
Focusing on the skills assessment, recognition, validation and development of inmates’ skills, SkillHubs is a EU project that the Prison Education and Re-Entry Programme of the University of Malta is involved in. The aim of this project is the smooth transition of offenders from prison into society, again through education. It focuses on the inclusion and equity of prisoners with educational and skill deficits, including a lack of some or all of the eight key learning competencies, including the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary by all for personal fulfilment and development, employability, social inclusion and active citizenship as identified by the European Commission. Ultimately, SkillHubs aspires to take the demand and supply route and coupling those skills that are needed in the services sector with those skills taught in prison. The project’s goal is the up-skilling and, particularly for those who experienced longer sentences, the re-skilling of inmates’ abilities.
Skillhubs targets three basic skills (literacy, numeracy and digital skills) and three transversal skills (complex problem solving, thinking skills and problem solving). It does so by connecting the local/regional stakeholders, mainly the business sector, the school system and the public sector into this system of up-skilling and re-skilling prison inmates. The innovative factor of this approach is that education and training cease to be the sole domain of teachers and educators, and instead makes better use of the community. It is aspired that through this course, resettlement will be more successful since it is the community itself is preparing the inmate for reintegration. Additionally, all throughout the project, the inmate takes the role of the active learner, since any plan of action is designed with the inmate rather than for the inmate. This aspect proves to be an essential aspect of rehabilitative initiatives.
The project held focus groups in each of the seven partner countries, mostly made up of prison educators. These focus groups were intended to shed light on policies and strategies used in partner countries when it came to education within their prisons; what policies are employed, shared, managed and implemented. Additionally, how success is measured was discussed. The focus groups then zoomed in on actual inmates within their prison; the number of those lacking basic education (and how this data is collected), as well as what hinders and/or motivates inmates to follow courses. Finally, attention was drawn onto the prison educators- namely how they are selected and trained and if it is felt that the prison offers enough resources for successful teaching.
All partner countries also collected face-to-face data from the users of these services, the inmates. Questions basically mirrored the questions asked to educators but from a consumerist point of view. Through a comparison, discrepancies and further needs were established. These gaps and un-synchronisations will be developed into individual programmes for the inmates.
by Joseph Giordmaina & Michela Scalpello
For further information, as well as published reports on Skillhubs please click here.
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Update from June 2019