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The government’s prison service has pulled out of apprenticeships after forcing thousands of custody officers onto the programme before realising there wasn’t the capacity to train them and run prisons safely.   

His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) experienced a rapid rise in apprenticeship delivery after deciding, in 2021, to make it mandatory for all new prison officers to take the level 3 custody and detention officer apprenticeship.   

Starts shot up from just 20 in its first year of delivery in 2018/19 to 2,387 in 2021/22 and then 3,320 in 2022/23 – making it the 14th largest apprenticeship provider in England last year.   

But HMPPS, part of the Ministry of Justice, recently found that releasing apprentices from operational duties for around 200 hours over the period of the apprenticeship to complete off-the-job training was “putting strain on staffing levels and the safe running of prison regimes”, according to its recent annual report.   

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