Richard Branson wants employers to look past criminal records

As Virgin Trains gives a break to ex-offenders...

Richard Branson wants employers to look past criminal records

Richard Branson at the unveiling of Virgin Trains' 140mph tilting 'Pendolino' train for the west coast | Image: Myung Jung Kim / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Richard Branson has urged other business leaders to offer training and support to people with criminal records.

The high-profile entrepreneur believes re-offending rates would be cut if firms were willing to give people a second chance in life.

A new campaign from Virgin Trains is attempting to do just that, raising awareness of the challenges those with criminal records face when trying to find work and offering apprenticeship schemes for former UK prisoners.

Virgin Trains West Coast's employment programme has trained 25 such candidates and placed them in full-time jobs thus far (though five have dropped out of their own accord).

Speaking to the Guardian as his company launched a toolkit for businesses offering advice on hiring ex-offenders, Branson said:

"It's about giving people the dignity of work."

When questioned by the paper on the low percentage these 25 would account for when looking at the overall workforce, the Virgin boss responded:

“Where it is not required, we do not screen job applicants for criminal records, and I’m quite happy we don’t,” he says. “So, Virgin businesses may already employ far more than the 25 people that are currently in Virgin Trains’ specific ex-offender employment programme.”

The company intends to employ a further 10 recruits by April, with the plan being to ultimately reach 10% of the workforce.

Tammy Moreton is one of the 25 ex-offenders who were taken on.

The 23-year-old says her future seemed bleak following her arson conviction four years ago, but the Virgin Trains opportunity has had a massive impact on her life:

"It's just given me a... different way of looking at life and it's given me a second chance.

"When I was first in, I was in and out for a bit, because I didn't know what I wanted to do.

"But with the right opportunity, and someone pointing you in the right direction, it's definitely worth it."