PRISONERS at Scotland's newest jail will be paid for working in an on-site call centre.

Inmates will be trained in a special enterprise wing at HMP Grampian when it opens in March.

They will be working in an employability, recruitment and telemarketing contact centre to prepare them for life beyond bars.

The prisoners will contact firms to ask about possible job opportunities for after their release.

Bosses hope the scheme, to be overseen by Welsh firm n-ergy, will make inmates "job-ready".

Donna Turner-Kot, chief ­executive of the n-ergy group, said the offenders will be trained in call handling, customer service, sales and recruitment services.

She added: "The training will be accredited and will lead on to employment preparation in readiness for liberation. The facility will also have interview rooms where employers will be invited to conduct interviews prior to the offender's liberation.

"We will be developing an employers' forum to secure a network of organisations with a social conscience to support its work which is to provide everyone with a second chance. We develop individuals through unlocking potential to transform their lives into ones free of crime."

"The operators who will be working within our unit will only have a monitor and a headset in front of them. The only information they receive on the monitor will be the name of the person that the system is about to call. They don't have access to a telephone or any other information - it is all automatic."

The two-year contact with the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) marks the first time such an enterprise partnership has been established in a Scots prison. Offender activity will be managed by n-ergy personnel, with support from SPS staff.

High security hardware and software is to be installed in the call centre to make sure offenders do not get access to personal data.

The scheme will be able to accommodate up to 12 prisoners, with a commitment to engage 24 to 26 different people every year.

Prisoners on the scheme, all female with three to six months to go before release, will be paid in line with existing prison policy. Profits will be ­reinvested in n-ergy's work with offenders and ex-offenders associated to the prison.

HMP Grampian will be the first prison of its kind to house male and female inmates, young offenders and remand prisoners all in the same facility in the UK.

The ageing HMP Peterhead closed on December 6 while HMP Aberdeen closed on January 10.

Prisoners from both jails have been rehoused for a nine-week period until the new facility opens.

A Scottish Prison Service spokeswoman said: "As part of the commissioning of HMP and YOI Grampian, we launched a scheme to try to encourage employers and organisations who could bring employability skills to Grampian to link up with us to provide learning and training opportunities for those in our care. We received a variety of proposals and are still considering some of these.

"We now have entered into the first formal agreement under the Employability Partnership Scheme with n-ergy Group Ltd and we look forward to developing the opportunities available."