The prison service is consulting contractors including Carillion and Bovis Lend Lease about setting up pilot schemes in Nottingham, Coventry, Manchester, Merseyside, Leeds, Bradford, and west London.
Two-hundred former offenders will receive six months' training under the scheme. If they reach the appropriate NVQ standard they will be offered a full-time job.
The scheme is part of the government and Construction Industry Training Board's Ambition Construction project, which also aims to bring older people into the industry.
A prison service spokesperson said the scheme would provide a route for former offenders to enter the building industry. She said prisoners were offered construction workshops inside prison, but this scheme would enable them to go on a specific path when they were released. She added that the training would follow on from that given in prison workshops.
The spokesperson said: "The scheme enables ex-offenders to work in construction on a paid basis until they are fully trained, when they will begin a full-time job."
A Carillion source said the initiative complemented the Ambition Construction scheme, and added that the only issue still to be addressed was accommodation for trainees. Contractors might be required to house the trainees.
Smaller schemes on the same lines have already taken place, including a scheme in Bristol in which the prison service joined forces with other agencies to provide training in a number of trades, including construction. Mowlem's facilities management arm, Aqumen, is also understood to have piloted training prisoners in basic skills.
In September last year, Building revealed that the government was planning to launch Ambition Construction in an attempt to revamp the New Deal scheme and train older people.
The scheme was launched at the start of the year to help hit the CITB target of recruiting 94,000 workers a year for the next five years.