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CODE 4000 - Do the maths

Matthew Burrows

Being a new face in the world of tech recruitment and working alongside not just knowledgeable, but passionate tech recruiters here at North Starr, I couldn’t help but catch the ‘tech bug’ almost instantaneously. Making a point to immerse myself within the industry and absorb as much knowledge as possible from my peers and industry professionals alike, it became very apparent in an incredibly short space of time that the ability to code is one that is desired by many and a fantastic skill to obtain. 

On a daily basis, conversing with candidates, I make a point to learn something new everyday and ask developers their opinions on anything from the current state of the market, to their favourite bits of tech. Doing this has exposed me to a level of infectious enthusiasm that rivals nothing I have experienced before and has allowed me to catapult myself into a position of knowledge within a couple of months. 

In a recent conversation with a C# developer working for a large global consultancy, he prompted me to read an article that he emailed to me that he was very excited about. The article was titled ‘Inmates to be taught coding’ and he spoke about this article with such gusto that I had no option but to read it right away!

From a personal standpoint, having volunteered at young offenders’ charities over the years and seeing first-hand the difficulties faced when an individual leaves a life of crime with a genuine effort to turn their life around for the better, this article really struck a chord with me. 

With the way our world is moving, it’s clear to see that ‘digital skills’ will open up a plethora of opportunities for anyone looking to shape a new life for themselves and give themselves a futureproof career. 

An organisation called CODE 4000 has received new funding to expand its work, teaching ‘carefully-vetted’ offenders to code. For this right individual, with a will and a want to turn their life around for the better and obtain a relevant skill, what an opportunity this presents itself as!

Neil Barnby, a workshop instructor at HMP Humber for CODE 4000, said:

“Code4000 workshops are reducing re-offending at a measurable rate because we keep in touch with our graduates. We are constantly seeing success after success. When I started teaching in prisons, I thought that if I could change just one life, turn one person away from crime then I have achieved something truly marvellous.

I look back on the years that I have been teaching coding in prisons and can see all the lives I have had a part in changing for the better. Not just the ex-offenders but their families and, more importantly, their children. It is an enormous sense of achievement and with this funding I look forward to changing even more lives.”

The funding is part of a £1.2 million government package to help underrepresented groups get jobs in digital industries. In addition, CODE 4000 will receive a £100,000 award that will help to fund a new employment hub in Sheffield, providing support, mentoring and training for graduates once they have left prison.

Wanting to gain more opinions on this matter I found Prisons Minister Rory Stewart comments on the subject also who said:

“I want to see more offenders learning the kind of workplace skills which can set them on a path to a better future, which is precisely why we launched our Education & Employment Strategy last year.

Code 4000 is an excellent example of what can be achieved through education and training in prison. It not only helps offenders turn their lives around but also benefits society by reducing the chances of their reoffending, and I am delighted to see it receive this further funding.”

Reoffending is said to cost the British society around £15 billion per year, now I’m no mathematician, but that seems like a rather large number and one that would be better distributed elsewhere. Helping to put individuals on a brighter path by equipping them with the skills they need to succeed benefits everyone from the individual, their community, and the country at large.

You could argue that we have a world-leading digital economy and my personal thoughts are that this new funding could help keep people out of prison so they can give back to their local communities as well as be a boost for our ever-growing tech industry. Whether this works or not remains to be seen, but a step forward is a step in the right direction.