Ex-offenders are helping South West Trains to solve its skills shortage problems.
Figures released exclusively to Personnel Today show a quarter of the former offenders the train company has employed have been promoted and nearly half are still being employed.
Seventy-six former criminals have joined South West Trains in entry level positions such as cleaners, rail operators and maintenance staff since the ex-offender scheme started in 1995. Two have become train drivers.
Beverley Shears, HR director for South West Trains, said companies need to explore all avenues for staff in a competitive jobs market. "The whole industry needs 5,000 train drivers over the next 10 years. It's not going to get them just by recruiting from within the industry," she said.
The ex-offenders go through the same recruitment and training processes as everyone else, with only personnel and the appropriate line managers knowing about their conviction. The scheme is run in partnership with the charity Comeback.
"Internally we treat them exactly like any employee. The only difference is they are supported by us and Comeback rather than just by us," said Shears.
She believes ex-offenders are highly motivated and loyal to the company as many are grateful for the opportunity to work.