10 Nov 2015

Serco receives low grade for staff training

12:55 pm on 10 November 2015

The Qualifications Authority has criticised low pass rates in Serco's New Zealand prison officer training programme.

In a report, the authority said it had relatively low confidence in the programme put in place by the private prison operator and had given Serco training a rating of 'not yet confident'; the second lowest rating possible on its four point scale.

Serco logo

The logo of the prison operator Serco. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

It said the company ensured new prison staff had the minimum training required, but only a quarter had gone on to complete a national certificate in offender management.

"Direction from governance was overly focused on ensuring sufficient supply of prison officers. Because Serco Training was not adequately resourced, this emphasis led to a sacrifice in qualification completion, putting Serco employees at risk of not refining their skills while operating in a complex and high-risk prison environment."

The report said there were flaws in the design of the training programme and lack of capacity to support staff as they did the training.

It said the training company was disorganised, though new staff had worked to improve that, and did not appear to be adequately resourced.

"While fully acknowledging the need of both Serco and Serco Training to generate a certain level of profit for shareholders, there needs to be a realisation that education is a long-term investment, with the return on investment not necessary realised in the immediate term."

The report said the company's two full-time trainers were well-qualified and the company had already taken steps to improve its programme.

In a statement, Serco New Zealand said its main focus during the period covered by the Qualifications Authority review was recruiting and training staff for its new South Auckland prison which opened in May.

It said it had ensured all staff met the requirements to work as a prison officer, and many were well down the track to achieving the National Certificate in Offender Management at level 3 of the Qualifications Framework.