While numbers of first-time entrants have decreased dramatically in the last decade, young people remaining in the youth justice system in England and Wales today are the most persistent, troubled offenders. Research suggests that the formation of a non-offending or ‘prosocial’ identity is crucial for desistance among persistent offenders. This article examines how engaging in an employment programme at a social enterprise influenced the identity of offenders aged 16–18 years. Young people's self-narratives reveal that although none possessed a strong criminal identity, they developed a more coherent prosocial identity during their employment. This can be attributed to how the employment programme reduced the social exclusion experienced by employees, demonstrating the value of such opportunities for youths.