Ban the Box: If you’re given an opportunity – take it!

Discover what our Employability Manager Ryan Stockard has to say about challenging perceptions of removing barriers for work for people. He shares is own story, expectations and what he has learned from working on our #BantheBox campaign.

I joined Business in the Community as Employability Manager in November 2023 – a new challenge and new projects to develop my career. I had no prior knowledge of Ban the Box, and through initial conversations, I thought it certainly was going a be a new challenge. Right away I realised that my understanding of a ‘conviction’ was misconceived when linked to employment.

However, over the last quarter of this campaign, because of the insightful conversations with more than 40 businesses and continuous research for the campaign, my original negative thoughts of this being a challenge have certainly changed. What a positive challenge this is; one that is influencing me to reflect on my life and career path.

In Northern Ireland, the most recent statistics show that 8 out of 10 prosecutions are against males, and 20.7% of convictions are in the 18-24 age group*. Growing up in a relatively low-socioeconomic background, I’ve thought a lot about the parameters of such environments, the anti-social behaviours within, and how easy it is for young people to succumb to social pressures and make poor decisions as they are developing.

So far in my career, I feel fortunate to have worked on great projects that have addressed major societal issues like Economic Development and Inactivity, Mental Health, and Digital and Social Inclusion. Working in this space, I have contemplated how things could have been different for me if my family hadn’t moved out of the area I lived in just before I entered my teenage years – the research suggests that there is at least a 1 in 5 chance I might have become a number in these statistics.

This has led me to question how much harder it could have been to access the solid career opportunities I’ve had.

I challenge my peers in the marketplace to carry out a similar analysis, it doesn’t take long.

You can simply look around at the people you know, who have or could have, easily picked up a conviction. You will surely find examples of people who have had successful careers or enterprises, or who have made positive impacts in society.

For businesses who are considering ‘banning the box’, the big question is always WHY? I would like to share some quantitative and qualitative metrics of the campaign from the last quarter:

36% Campaign growth. Ban the Box now has 28 business signatories in Northern Ireland across industries. This is reflective of the overall positive conversations’ businesses have engaged in and their commitment to take responsible action on this issue. It also suggests that the Ban the Box message is being better understood. Yes, some convictions can be perceived as a risk, but it doesn’t mean you should not ask about convictions. It’s about understanding the context and assessing if an individual has the required skills for a job. *

1,900+ Roles made more accessible to people with convictions through new Ban the Box employer signatories. If one of these roles becomes vacant in the future, it becomes a fair and inclusive opportunity for an individual with a conviction.

 My conclusion is that every human being has untapped talent and potential, and those who want to change and find opportunities deserve a chance to convert this into value – for their family, friends, business, the economy, and a better life for themselves.

If you are interested in learning about how you can Ban the Box, tailored to your business needs, or wish to know what ‘economic activity’ looks like beyond the statistics and how you can engage with the groups included, you can reach out to me for a confidential conversation at ryan.stockard@bitcni.org.uk

Please also listen to this episode of our podcast to find out what Greggs is doing: The Lens – UK Responsible Business Podcast: GREGGS and PWC: Putting business at the heart of communities is essential for everyone on Apple Podcasts

 

*NISRA/Dept of Justice – Court Prosecution, Convictions and Out of Court Disposal Statistics for Northern Ireland 2022 (June 2023)
*Ask only when it is appropriate for a specific role, and not at stage 1.