A pallet recycling business named SME Business of the Year by South Wales Argus is working with prisons to fill skills gaps and rehabilitate offenders back into the community.

Pallet Recycling South Wales, a Newport-based recycling firm which specialises in recycling pallets, had been struggling with staff shortages when the opportunity arose to work with His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS).

Leighton Szade, managing director at PRSW, now employs men who are released on temporary licence from prison.

He said: "We were spending a lot of money hiring and training people, but some staff weren’t turning up and it was creating a very difficult environment, especially with customer demands.

"We tried productivity bonuses, everything you could imagine, and nothing worked.

"I was talking to somebody who mentioned working with prisoners and it has been a game changer. Attitudes have changed among staff. Our productivity and everything has improved."

With around 50,000 people released from prison each year, New Futures Network, a specialist part of HMPPS, attracts and supports employers to work with prisons in England and Wales to help create systems and infrastructures that result in more prisoners securing employment when exiting the prison system.

With an estimated 200,000 children experiencing a parent in prison, employment opportunities for those parents can make a huge difference to their families and wider communities on their release and help rehabilitation.

Chris Haggett, head of Education, Skill & Work at HMPPS, who works with prisoners to help support them back into employment, believes prisoners offer a great opportunity for employers such as PRSW to help fill skills gaps while also providing stability for prisoners as they leave the prison system.

He said: "The partnership with Leighton has grown from strength to strength with PRSW now offering some permanent placements in his company following release. Leighton has openly said that prisoners demonstrate great commitment, and he’s impressed by their willingness to work hard."

Leighton said: "We’ve got no security issues and in general they all have really good attitudes. They don't want to be stuck in their prison cell and they’re earning cash to send back to their families.

"I understand businesses may be a bit wary of working with prisoners, but they need to come and talk to people like me. You don’t know what kind of talent you’re tapping into!

"People deserve a second chance, and I can’t fault the men I’ve dealt with. It’s help fix a massive issue in our business."