May 30, 2017

"Virgin Trains has found some great talent through Working Chance."

Kathryn and Jocelyn

Kathryn Wildman, Recruitment Strategy Manager at Virgin Trains, says that Virgin Trains’ strategy of hiring women with convictions through Working Chance has proved to be very good for business.

“What we’ve found is that taking this decision has opened us up to a whole new talent pool that we can now access, which is key when we’re making sure that we’re filling our roles with the best people possible,” she says.  “Virgin Trains has found some great talent through Working Chance that we’d never have had access to otherwise.”

Statistics show that the likelihood of someone re-offending when in employment is very low – so I’d encourage all businesses to take that first step just like Virgin Trains did, in partnership with experts like Working Chance.

Richard Branson’s belief in giving people a second chance following a prison sentence has seen Virgin adopt a strategy of seeking out ex-offenders as potential employees.  There are now 27 ex-offenders employed across the Virgin Trains network.  As Recruitment Strategy Manager at Virgin Trains, Wildman admits that she was initially thrown by the idea.

“I don’t feel that I had any preconceptions or strong views about women with convictions but when Virgin Trains was asked to get behind the scheme I guess I did wonder whether this would be something that would be good for the company or not,” she says.

It was a real surprise to me just how much people want to move on and change their lives. And it’s difficult for that to happen without support from organisations like Working Chance and without someone being willing to give them that second chance.

After hiring women through Working Chance, she says she now believes passionately in the scheme for both the commercial and social benefits it brings.

“I really believe that people shouldn’t be judged on what happened at often the worst moment of their lives and that sometimes they just need the opportunity to show people what they can do.  It also makes a huge amount of sense when you think about the wider impact on society because we know that if someone has a job then the chance of them re-offending falls dramatically.”

“We haven’t had any negative experiences at all,” Wildman says.  “I’ll admit that I was concerned about the quality and skills of the candidates we’d find through this scheme but we’ve discovered some incredible talent and hired some very articulate and creative people as a result. It was a real surprise to me just how much people want to move on and change their lives. And it’s difficult for that to happen without support from organisations like Working Chance and without employers being willing to give them that second chance.”

It’s about really looking at what the culture in your business is and how you deliver that message about why you believe that this approach is right for your business, as well as delivering social benefit

Her advice to other businesses is to embrace the opportunity to find the best possible candidates through widening their recruiting pool.

“Statistics show that the likelihood of someone re-offending when in employment is very low – so I’d encourage all businesses to take that first step just like Virgin Trains did, in partnership with experts like Working Chance,” she says.  It’s also important to be clear about the business reasons for taking action, she advises.

...we’ve discovered some incredible talent and hired some very articulate and creative people.

“It’s about really looking at what the culture in your business is and how you deliver that message about why you believe that this approach is right for your business, as well as delivering social benefit,” she says.  “That begins with delivering clear messages to your employees and also being clear about what kind of convictions you’re willing to consider. And at the recruiting stage it is about talking to that person about the journey they have taken to get to this point. Support from organisations like Working Chance makes this whole process easy to navigate.” 

“I know from our experience that people do and can change. Often they just need the opportunity to show employers what they are capable of.”

I know from our experience that people do and can change. Often they just need the opportunity to show employers what they are capable of.