WelTec course more than just skills
A brick and blocklaying course at Rimutaka Prison has been changing lives.
Thirteen inmates have graduated from WelTec’s certificate in brick and blocklaying.
Alan Peck, executive dean of the faculty of trades and technology at WelTec, is a strong advocate of the programme.
‘‘ The bricklaying programme is a great example of the good work WelTec is doing inside the wire,’’ he said.
‘‘Part of a Department of Corrections initiative to reduce recidivism, WelTec has five fully operational workshops inside the prison teaching a range of bricklaying, painting, carpentry and automotive programmes.’’
The course, in conjunction with one in small motors, was the first programme to be offered in the high-security area, and was developed based on the highly successful programmes WelTec is offering in the low and medium-security areas.
‘‘While the physical results are impressive, there are other less tangible benefits,’’ Mr Peck said.
‘‘For many students, this is the first time anyone has shown an interest in them. For many, it is the first time they have worked in a team environment.
‘‘And for most, their WelTec certificate is the first qualification they have ever had. ‘‘Our staff are achieving amazing things.’’ Greg Sinden, one of WelTec’s tutors, grasped the opportunity to teach in the high-security unit. Initially, he was unsure what he would face in the high-security environment, but quickly found the ability to trust the inmates, and to pull back and allow them to create.
‘‘What they produced really blew me away,’’ he said.
‘‘The standard of work they produced after only 17 weeks was extremely high.’’
The inmates began by developing core skills, then worked in groups to develop a hard landscape garden.
A key element of the course was giving inmates’ creativity free rein. They were responsible for the development of sketches, plans and full implementation of their design.
Mr Sinden found the inmates enthusiastic and easy to teach.
‘‘They don’t face the same obstacles or potential distractions which our students on campus work around,’’ he said.
‘‘It was great to work with people who were motivated to learn and develop their abilities.’’
Mr Sinden said a key to success was establishing a routine and standard of work.
‘‘If the task was not done correctly it was pulled down and the student had to start again.
‘‘While this was frustrating for students, feedback was they were pleased they were being taught by someone who had high standards and didn’t just allow them to do what they wanted.
‘‘The guards’ feedback to me was that the changes within the cellblock were unbelievable.
‘‘The students were much more settled, were not causing any problems and were nicer to talk to. It clearly demonstrated the difference being involved in something can make, keeping prisoners out of trouble and moving them forward.’’
The inmates were keen to continue developing their skills and WelTec is considering additional courses to take their skills to the next level.
Many inmates would like to be involved in the trade, and are keen to learn more or gain an apprenticeship or work in bricklaying upon release.
Mr Sinden is keen to continue his involvement when the course runs again this year.
‘‘It’s fantastic to be able to use my knowledge and creativity to enhance the growth of these guys and give them something back, and something that they may have never had in their lives – someone telling them they have done something good.’’
Inside job: Brick and blocklaying inmates at Rimutaka Prison designed and built this landscape garden.