Guest blog by Rod Anderson, CEO of Code4000: “There is a clear transformative effect on our students”

Home > Guest blog by Rod Anderson, CEO of Code4000: “There is a clear transformative effect on our students”

Rod Anderson | 06 July 2020

Code4000 teaches coding skills to people in prison, helping people with convictions to find employment upon release whilst also helping to fill the nationwide shortage in coding and technology-related skills. In this blog, Code4000’s CEO Rod Anderson talks about the impact of their workshops, as well as some of the challenges they come across in delivering their work.

Many of our students “catch the bug” and really commit themselves to their studies: they take their textbooks to their cells to study, write code on paper to transcribe the following day

Working in prisons, we have found the digital skills that we teach have a significant effect on the wellbeing and confidence of our students. Coding is a creative discipline, to some extent, it involves problem solving and modelling real situations and human interactions in code and, as a result, can be tremendously immersive. Consequently, many of our students “catch the bug” and really commit themselves to their studies: they take their textbooks to their cells to study, write code on paper to transcribe the following day, petition the governor to open our academies throughout lunch, and talk enthusiastically to visitors to the workshops about the projects they have completed.

They are often evangelical about the effect coding has had on their lives, for many of our students, the work becomes a hobby, something they will continue to do upon release. One graduate, whom our Regional Manager met with following his release, was given a donated laptop for him to continue his studies – he was thrilled by this, saying that he’d “missed coding” in the few weeks he’d been out of prison. While providing much needed digital skills, skills that are sought by many tech employers, there is also a clear transformative effect on our students. Moving forward, we hope to measure this improvement in wellbeing and capture the effects our programme has on its cohort.

We proudly boast a 0% rate of recidivism amongst our graduates, over 40% of whom are currently employed within the tech-sector.

In the new PLA briefing, we are compared to the Last Mile. We were genuinely at this and aspire to equal the impact and scale of their operation over timeCode4000 also offers a student support, peer mentoring and through the gate careers service to our students. Each academy has a regional manager assigned to it, who works with each of the students to ensure they are getting the most out of the course. They create bespoke learning plans for the students and discuss with them their options for employment or training upon release (while also working in the community to secure such opportunities). Because of the work around our through the gate graduate pipeline, we proudly boast a 0% rate of recidivism amongst our graduates, over 40% of whom are currently employed within the tech-sector.

We have also found  that an  appetite exists within tech companies to help and support marginalised groups such as those in custody. We have had numerous volunteers from the industry attend our workshops to deliver sessions, mentor our graduates in the community, and write content for our curriculum. Within prisons there will always be the issue of recruiting instructors with the appropriate level of digital skills to residents, and tech sector volunteers may prove a vital resource in resolving that.

Code4000 are working with HMPPS to try to provide a new digital solution for a potential expansion

From an implementation perspective, there are many significant issues to setting up digital projects within prisons, some of which the PLA  touch upon in  the briefing. There is no central budget within HMPPS for the required resources, which means that the implementation of digital programmes is left to local budgets, therefore only the establishments with surplus education budgets can procure a digital learning classroom required for our workshops. It has not yet been possible to share any resources (for example via Virtual Campus), and there are not enough resources within establishments to make that a workable solution. Code4000 are working with HMPPS to try to provide a new digital solution for a potential expansion, but for small charities, this is highly costly and very complex. So, at present, we are providing new solutions at a local level, which allow interested prisons to continue to procure digital learning solutions via the DPS.

We have had recent success in partnering with Coracle Inside to provide some in cell laptops for our cohort of learners at Holme House, Humber and Kirklevington Grange. This has been a difficult process and has only been made possible by Coracle Inside being able to access funding from outside the prison service.

Coracle Inside have been working in prisons to provide Chromebooks for prison learners. Alongside word and excel they have a range of pre-approved pre-installed course materials. Any type of course content can be uploaded including video, audio, animation, interactive workbooks and self- assessment tools.

Coracle are looking for resources to include on the Chromebooks. If you have materials that you would like to share, please contact info@coracleinside.org.uk. 

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