Mountjoy Prison pilots first ever virtual simulator training for prisoners
Making a difference
Rehabilitation and providing potential opportunities for prisoners is another possible outlet Barry Keatley’s offers. He recently spent a few weeks in Mountjoy Prison and explained that simulators are being used in prisons in England, he ended up doing a demo in Mountjoy and “we did a couple of weeks up there, it went down very well, for the first time ever during any course that they’ve ever been through up there, the [prisoners] did not want to take a break… it was just full on for the length of time I was in it.”
Barry noted that “there was a possibility of different work placements there for guys that are up for release. We were in touch with different companies and yeah, there was a few guys have got a good possibility of getting placements when they come out.”
He added that the prisoners were saying “it’s giving them such a chance because now they have something, you know, kind of a new skill coming out, something to look forward to and it gets them out of the circle, because they said if they don’t come out and get into employment, they’ll get sucked back in again.”
Mark Walsh, Chief Officer, Work/Training in Mountjoy Prison, told the Kildare Nationalist that he had done some research and got in touch with Barry to see what he could provide.
Noting that he has a team of Integrated Sentence Management (ISM) officers, who interview prisoners, Mark said: “We found that we were looking for people that [were] coming close to release and that they had an interest in working in some of these machines… they were all interviewed. We got the outside agencies which are IASIO [Irish Association for Social Inclusion Opportunities], Mandy Doyle is our Training and Employment Officer, we had Mandy in on the interviews as well, we selected our candidates, we [did] a demonstration with Barry, it was absolutely fabulous what could be taught, so we got approval, we got it going. We selected candidates and when Barry came on-site, we had him for two weeks.”
Speaking of the candidates, Mark said that “after the first morning, they wouldn’t even stop for a break, they wanted their dinner brought down to them, they were so enthusiastic… they were just so involved.”
He said they all passed “with flying colours” and, though a pilot scheme, there are already two people who have gone through the training and secured full-time employment.
Mark said it was “a great experience to have it” and noted that “we had a team of people onboard from Care and Rehab, you know, IASIO, ISMs and fully supported by the governor.”
“We will be running it again and we have a list at the moment of people that want to get involved,” said Mark. “It’s the way forward, if you ask me.”
The opportunities are certainly there – Barry reiterated that, at the moment, “the construction industry are just crying out for people, they can’t be got. Drivers across all different sectors, you know, whether it’s agriculture, transport, construction, quarrying, they’re not available. There’s nobody trained up in that profession now. There’s people don’t know how to get the training in the profession. There’s no actual training available out there for them. And it’s hard to get a start on any of these machines for the first time, because they’re all so expensive.”
Barry told me that he had researched simulators and looked at the different companies doing them, but it was the Tenstar model that caught his attention “for the amount that it had to offer, it had the graphics, the controls, the value for money. They’re a Swedish-based company and… I’ve built up a very good relationship with them and they’re happy to let me look after their dealings here in Ireland now as well. I’m kind of their point of contact here when it comes to showing the machine, demoing the machine.”
Companies certainly seem to be catching on to the potential benefits – a leading civil engineering firm, for example, had a safety week recently and asked Barry to bring the simulator to it “because they want to actually put the likes of their engineers and their banksmen and all into the actual seat of a machine to show them what a driver can actually see. And they want to trial a few of the drivers on it as well.”
Before our conversation drew to a close, I asked Barry if it was his dream to have his own training centre. He replied that “it’s to have a centre where people can actually come, they can come to learn the different machines, their own companies can send them to get assessed on different machines, the likes of employment agencies and that as well or companies when they’re taking on guys – rather than putting them on a machine that could cost potentially half a million, they can put them onto this, no risk of doing damage. It’s completely green and that as well… there’s no pollutants, you’re not burning diesel or anything like that, there’s no downtime of actual machines, you know, which is costly to any company.” He added that it’s “a safe and risk-free way of learning how to drive.”
Read the full article on the Kildare Nationalist here