Prison bosses at Polmont have teamed up with the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service to give young offenders the chance to develop work skills that will boost their rehabilitation.
Justice Secretary and Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson has visited the young offenders institute to see for himself the progress made by the first men to complete the intensive SFRS training course.
The Fireskills programme, which was introduced in January, has worked with 13 young men so far. Another two courses are planned for this year.
After watching a team of six completing drills and first-aid demonstrations, Mr Matheson said: “The skills and commitment shown by this group of young men is really impressive and a good example of the decisive shift that we have made towards early intervention and prevention, which is helping to reduce youth offending.
“I’ve been very impressed by the way in which the Scottish Prison Service and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service are working together to deliver this programme, which is making a real difference to help those who are participating in it to move away from the offending activity that brought them into Polmont in the first place.
“Over the course of their training, the individuals involved have faced up to the impact that their crimes have had on their victims and communities, on the people who care about them and on themselves. Fireskills is giving them the knowledge, qualifications and confidence to secure work and rebuild their lives when they leave Polmont.”
Brenda Stewart, governor of HMP & YOI Polmont, said: “I’m delighted at the support we have received from the SFRS. Building up the self-esteem of the young people in our care is fundamental to reintegrating them successfully into the outside world.”
SFRS youth instructor James Young added: “We’re trying to teach these guys life skills to make them more employable, using the core skills that firefighters learn – team building, communication, health and safety, and first aid. Some of the guys have already said that they want to try to apply to the service when they leave Polmont, which is fantastic.”
Matthew and Callum, two of the young men who took part in the course in January, are now mentors to new starts.
Matthew said: “I enjoyed working as a team. I really appreciated the firefighters coming in and taking the time to train us.”
Callum added: “I had never done any first aid before but I caught on really easy. It’s good to think that one day, maybe I’ll be able to save somebody’s life, which is something I could be happy with.”