The government has launched a new drive to reduce crime by getting offenders into training and jobs.
Education secretary Alan Johnson announced £500,000 of funding for pilot schemes in two regions aimed at improving offenders' skills and job prospects.
The proposals will give more help to offenders who show that they are prepared to turn away from crime, with employers being encouraged to start offender job schemes, the government said.
Employers will get extra support to give work trials which lead to jobs, while offenders undertaking training packages will be given interviews.
Mr Johnson explained that although punishment and protecting the public was the main aim of the criminal justice system, this must go hand-in-hand with rehabilitation to break the cycle of reoffending.
Minister of state for employment Jim Knight added: "Work is the best way of reducing re-offending and it is essential that we ensure offenders have the skills employers require.
"We are looking at how we can improve the provision of skills by Jobcentre Plus to help ex-offenders return to the labour market quickly and turn their back on crime."