National Grid Transco's young offenders programme, which began in a prison in Reading in 1999, now involves 50 companies.
National Grid Transco told UK prison governors last month that prisoner rehabilitation is only successful when training comes from the recruiting company, not from a college.
The utilities firm met 50 companies that have joined its young offenders programme to discuss a Home Affairs Select Committee report on the rehabilitation of prisoners. "Generic training is of no use if you want to become a gas engineer with us because we have our own in-house training," said Mary Harris, head of the programme.
The scheme, which has taken on 170 ex-offenders since 1999, began after National Grid Transco realised there was a shortage of fork-lift truck drivers in the UK and started a training scheme in a Reading prison to fill the skill gap. It expanded in 2002 to include craftsmen, gas engineers, heavy truck drivers and financial advisers.
Originally started as a pilot project, it is now a broad scheme that is intended to train 1,000 offenders a year from 2006. The programme has cut reoffending levels for those involved from the national average of 70 per cent to only 7 per cent.
"We were really careful about what we were doing because we needed to measure the outcome and see how offenders got on with the scheme," said Harris.
She said the company focused on offenders who are on temporary licence because the training of engineers could only be done on site.
With a 90 per cent success rate, the scheme has become a widely studied model, and was recently referred to in the Home Affairs Select Committee report.
"We believe we have found the right formula to provide hundreds of jobs for young offenders," said Harris. "The scheme reduces reoffending, creates good citizens and safer neighbourhoods, and also saves public money."
She added that the scheme was more successful than hundreds of others of the same nature because it was industry-focused. Those on the programme receive mentoring and are guaranteed employment once they have completed it.