Painting and decorating course opens up career options for prisoners

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Every few months WelTec painting and construction tutor Ritchie Howard and Corrections Officer Chris Miles have a good reason to be proud as they watch their students graduate.  

The recent course in early March saw 11 prisoners complete a 17 week, Level 3 Certificate in Foundation Studies (Painting). 

At the ceremony, the men grinned widely as they collected their certificates. One prisoner who paints landscapes as a hobby presented Ritchie with a painting especially made for him as a sign of their appreciation. 

But what is even more pleasing, say Chris and Ritchie, is seeing most of them return the following Monday for the Level 4 NZQA Certificate in Applied Decorating. 

For many of these guys, this is the first course that they have ever finished. It’s always a bit tough at first, and they have to push themselves, but when you see them get it and realise they have acquired a new skill, it’s fantastic.

The prison courses are the same as those taught at polytechnics and prisoners have the opportunity to gain NZQA qualifications. The Level 3 course teaches basic preparation and painting skills, while Level 4 advances these with decorating techniques. 

Ritchie was a Corrections Officer for 20 years before deciding on a career change to become a tutor. He says his prior role has helped to have a good understanding of the learning challenges many prisoners face. 

“The beauty of teaching is seeing that growth and development, and helping them work through their frustrations and learn new techniques.

I tell them skills are real achievements – they are theirs, no one can take them away from them and even if they don’t use them in a job, it is something they can teach others. I encourage them to continue the learning journey and don’t be scared to attend other courses once they are back in the community.

Chris agrees: “It is Corrections’ job to get prisoners to a better place going out then coming in, and that is not just with skills but the ability to work with others as part of a team.” 

For Mick* the course has encouraged him to think about renovating the home he owns when he returns to the community, and doing odd jobs for others. 

“I had done a little painting but now I have learned the skills properly, I can do my own house – it always needs a paint. I also did the plumbing course, and I’m going on to the Level 4 course.” 

It also helped Mick develop his social skills, he says. 

“Although we see the other guys in here, you often don’t talk to them. It’s been great coming in here and getting to know the tutors and build a rapport with them.” 

Murray* also picked up new skills but says learning to work in a team with others was one of the greatest benefits of attending courses. 

“You learn a work ethic and how to apply yourself, and also get on with other people. By doing this course, we learnt to work as a team and get on with people.

(*Not their real names)



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