Employment skills to boost rehabilitation

Work training helping young people get lives on right track.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has welcomed the progress made by the first young men to complete a Scottish Fire & Rescue Service training programme at HMP & YOI Polmont.

The team of six ran through drills and first aid demonstrations following intensive training with the SFRS trainers to develop their work skills and build confidence.

Introduced in January, the Fireskills programme has worked with 13 young men so far and has another two courses planned for this year.

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. This course has allowed the team and their trainers to look at the factors that influence young people to turn to crime.

“Over the course of their training the individuals 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.

“By motivating these young men Fireskills is giving them the knowledge, qualifications and confidence to secure work, provide for their families and rebuild their lives when they leave Polmont. And, of course, by working to prevent re-offending, we can keep crime down, and continue to reduce the likelihood of people becoming victims of crime.”

Matthew and Callum took part in the course in January and – are now mentors to the new starts coming on the programme.

Matthew said:

“I enjoyed working as a team most of all, you know realising that you’re not on your own, your team mate has got your back and you’ve got theirs. To start with it is a bit difficult to pick up the drills and working with the hoses, but the firefighters take it easy on us.

“If there’s a problem they say that there are no stupid questions and we’d get things sorted, we’d get it in our heads and by the second day we basically doing it right ourselves. It was brilliant. It just shows how good they were at showing us what they knew and I really appreciated them coming in and taking their time to show us.”

Callum commented:

“It was amazing coming in and seeing the guys from the SFRS and they treated us like they’d treat anybody else. It didn’t feel like they were working separately from us, we were a team, and it was amazing to just feel part of that team. It felt quite human and in here it’s easy to feel like just another number, and they made us feel like people.

“I had never done any first aid before, it’s not something I had ever even thought about. I was a bit worried, I was a bit nervous about doing it, because I thought, what if I do this wrong but I caught on really easy. It is good to think that one day, maybe I’ll be able to save somebody, or help somebody else save someone’s life, which is something I could be happy with.”

Brenda Stewart, Governor of HMP & YOI Polmont, said:

“I am delighted at the support we have received from SFRS. Building up the self-esteem of the young people in our care is fundamental to reintegrating them successfully into the outside world. The work that has been done here by the SFRS in partnership with SPS is an outstanding example of the kind of contribution public services can make to transforming lives.”

James Young, SFRS Crew Manager and youth instructor, said:

 “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, first aid. We want to give them some sort of ambition, make them realise the abilities that they have and build their confidence so they realise that it’s all down to them and they can achieve what they want to achieve.

The fact that we can see past that they’re in an institution and work with them shows that other people can see past that as well. Some of the guys in the search and rescue, the standards that they are achieving is absolutely fantastic and a few of them have already said that they want to try and apply to the service when they leave and it’s fantastic.”


Future programmes are scheduled to take place in July, August and October, enabling young people to gain four credit points at SCQF level 4.

The programme is delivered by SFRS youth instructors in partnership with Community Justice Scotland. They are supported by SFRS community action team members and HMP & YOI Polmont community safety officers.

The young men must adhere to a code of conduct and agree to the full commitment required to complete the course prior to participating.


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