Virgin Trains launch toolkit for employers and plan to “increase quite dramatically” the number of people with convictions they employ

Last week, Virgin Trains were featured in the Guardian with an article looking at their West Cost employment programme. The programme has placed 25 people with criminal records into employment opportunities in the last few years.

It’s refreshing to see Richard Branson talk so positively about it; “Everyone deserves a second chance in life,” he says.

Branson points out that Virgin doesn’t know how many ex-offenders it employs across the group.

“Where it is not required, we do not screen job applicants for criminal records, and I’m quite happy we don’t,”

Virgin Trains plans to employ a further 10 ex-offender recruits by April, he says, and the plan is to reach 10% of the workforce in the years to come. “We have started conversations with the Virgin businesses to encourage employing ex-offenders as part of their diversity and inclusion agenda, and I’d like to see openness across all job categories where we can legally hire ex-offenders,” he says. “But this must be a structured process, and I’m happy to see that Virgin Trains are working on relevant guidance that we can share with the other businesses.”

Kathryn Wildman, Virgin Trains’ lead recruiter, says: “It’s all about giving hope. They have done their time, paid their penalty. Now we have to give them a chance. You can’t put a price on hope.”

Branson is keen for other firms to employ more former prisoners. Virgin has launched a business toolkit to advise other employers on the merits of hiring former offenders.

The toolkit talks through Virgin Trains’ experience as an employer, which has been quite focused on the specific programme they have and working directly with prisons and probation areas through this programme. There’s some useful advice for other businesses thinking about doing something similar, alongside their broader mainstream recruitment methods where people with convictions are included and treated fairly.

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Christopher Stacey