Virgin Trains holds job fair for convicts at HMP Addiewell

A train operator is hoping to recruit convicts at a West Lothian prison as part of its hunt for job candidates.

HMP Addiewell Prison. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

Virgin Trains initially undertook to employ 12 people with convictions in 2014 as part of the contract awarded by the Department for Transport to run services on the west coast, but currently has 27 ex-offenders recruited through this programme.

A recruitment fair was held in HMP Addiewell earlier this week looking for talented candidates.

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It now plans to hold recruitment events in prisons across the UK every three months following the success of the initiative.

Kathryn Wildman said Virgin Trains had incorporated prison jobs fairs into its normal recruitment programme after they proved successful in finding talented candidates for jobs with the company.

She said: “We started this process three years ago with relatively modest ambitions.

“But we’ve been really pleased with the calibre of candidates we’ve managed to attract through prison recruitment events and our wider ex-offenders programme and so we’ve decided to incorporate these into our regular calendar of recruitment events.

“This isn’t just about helping society and giving people a chance to turn their lives around. It’s hiring the best people no matter what their background is. We’d urge other employers who might be thinking about this to give it a go.”

Virgin Trains has established partnerships with HM Prison Service, the Scottish Prison Service and private prison operators, all of whom work with inmates who are nearing the end of their sentence to identify employment opportunities.

The train operator has been actively recruiting people with criminal convictions since 2013 when founder Sir Richard Branson challenged Virgin businesses and the wider business community to help reduce re-offending.

Scotland’s Justice Secretary Michael Matheson MSP said: “Supporting people into work when they come out of custody is an essential part of their reintegration, and helps to reduce the chances of them offending again.

“We are working with the public sector, including the Scottish Prison Service, and private businesses to make it easier for people with convictions to find employment.

“Virgin Trains are very supportive of this work and I am delighted to hear of this latest partnership with HMP Addiewell to tackle the barriers which prevent people from turning their lives around.”

In 2015, Virgin Trains began operating services on the east coast and is looking to expand this programme to include that route.