Huge jobs boost for Northamptonshire as jail launches recruitment drive
Here's why you could be perfect to lock up one of 300 vacancies at Wellingborough's HMP Five Wells
A massive recruitment drive is under way to fill hundreds of jobs at a new Northamptonshire jail.
Work is progressing well on Five Wells prison, next to the A45 at Wellingborough, which will house 1,680 male prisoners when it opens in early 2022.
Between now and then, approximately 300 prison custody officers (PCO) will be hired .
G4S, which already operates four prisons and won the contract to run HMP Five Wells, is taking part in a virtual jobs fair TODAY (Wednesday) organised by Rushden, Wellingborough, Corby and Kettering Jobcentre Plus, Recovery Through Enterprise and The Crown Estate to provide more information on the roles available.
This newspaper spoke to Caine Smalling who works at HMP Oakwood in the West Midlands about why becoming a PCO at Wellingborough's new prison could be the job opportunity you are looking for.
Caine joined in 2014 as a PCO and progressed to a training manager before progressing to his current role as a safer custody manager.
He studied psychology at university and on finishing his degree followed his mum, who joined in 2012 after 26 years working in retail, into a career at HMP Oakwood.
Caine told this newspaper: "PCOs are our biggest workforce within the prison, without them nothing happens, without them no-one gets unlocked.
"They are highly valued.
"Without them we couldn't do a lot of what we do.
"It's the PCOs that are the driving force behind most prisons."
Caine is very much 'a people person' and cares passionately about the work they do with prisoners to prepare them for life on the outside.
He said: "Anyone who wants to work in a prison has to care, if you don't care it's not the job for you.
"People talk, you get their trust, they are happy to confide in you and discuss their life, it's really rewarding.
"There's nothing better than being told you've helped someone."
Several thousand welfare checks are carried out each day by PCOs so they are constantly checking in and forming bonds with the prisoners, getting to know them and working out how best to equip them once they are set for release.
PCOs work shifts on a rotation of days, nights and weekends, with Caine saying his bosses have always been flexible with him regarding his hours, especially when he became a dad.
Overtime is always on offer if you want it, which has helped Caine while he is saving to buy a house.
Caine is full of praise for the career which he started when he was just 23, but has already served him and his family well.
He said: "This is completely different to anything you have done before, it's a completely different environment.
"There is a nine-week training course but by week six or seven, you can tell people are itching to get out there and do it."
And he added: "For anyone thinking of applying, just apply.
"Just go for it, we have people in their 60s and people in their 20s.
"Our longest serving member of staff in the prison service is 42 years and I want to beat that!"
While there are good days and bad days as in any job, Caine says working in a prison is like being part of a community.
He says they never work alone, always in teams, and you can rely on those around you.
Every prison has a staff care team which is on hand to help and the training is there to equip staff for whatever prison life throws at them.
Having trained in martial arts as a youngster, Caine has never struggled when having to deal with violence or physical restraint in his job, but self-harm was a different matter.
He has had to learn to deal with that, and while no-one wants to see anyone get hurt or injured, he says all staff are equipped, adding: "We prevent and stop a lot more than what happens."
Prisoners with mental health and learning difficulties are another area where training is key for staff.
Caine believes anyone can be a PCO, a role which requires no specific qualifications or relevant experience, but for those thinking of applying, he says you need to be caring and want to bring out the best in people as well as having good communication skills.
He says it is also a great starting point for anyone looking to work in the prison service: "It's almost like the trunk of the tree - being a PCO, you can then branch off as much as you like.
"PCO is the best place to start."
And he added: "It's a great place to work.
"We have got all sorts of people as residents and as staff.
"The majority of us are really happy.
"Anyone should give it a go.
"If you have got the right intentions, you will get the training and it will be ongoing as long as you are here.
"I love it, it's really exciting."
■ Click HERE for more details about the prison custody officer role at HMP Five Wells.
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