Richmond native helps jobseekers with a criminal record through VEO Careers recruiting firm
Millions of Americans with a criminal record face barriers with employment. Veo Careers CEO Joshua Pritchett is on a mission to change that.
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) .- From prison to Wall Street and now CEO of a fast-growing recruiting firm, a Richmond native is helping jobseekers with a criminal record get a fair shot at employment.
Nearly 70 million Americans have a criminal record, and the consequences can often linger for decades. One of the greatest barriers: employment.
Joshua Pritchett knows the feeling all too well. It took four months for him to get an interview after serving time for drug charges in his late teens. He described that experience as ‘painful’ and ‘discouraging,’ something millions can relate to.
“People who can’t get employed because nobody will take a chance [can] end up with under-the-table jobs that they then get taken advantage of, wage theft, not getting paid,” said Pritchett, who described a lengthy list of dismal effects. “We’re not dealing with people trying to go back into the system. It’s people who just want to build a life they can rely on, they can retire on.”
In August 2022, Pritchett launched VEO Careers to give second-chance job seekers a fair chance at employment. The for-profit service pre-screens, vets and interviews candidates who apply for a job through the company, then makes a recommendation to the employer.
VEO Careers partners with employers in various industries, including sales and multiple trades. The company is listed on dozens of job boards.
Pritchett said the company can process up to 2,000 candidates per week with the capacity to fill up to 120 jobs per month. Thus far, the acceptance rate has been just under three percent due to the rigorous vetting process, but that number is expected to grow as more determined candidates apply.
“If you ever wanted a job that makes you cry happy tears, this is the one,” said Pritchett, who got emotional when thinking about the effects of a second chance.” We talk to some of the most inspiring, dedicated, persistent, resilient people that you can think of, and we’re helping them with a career they can retire on. I just think of what that’s going to do for their family, the joy and the health that that’s going to do for their family. It’s pretty inspiring.”
Pritchett grew up in Richmond but often moved around with his mother until his teenage years. He would eventually enter into the foster care system, where his life took a turn after hanging with the wrong crowd. Legal troubles mounted, and Pritchett would ultimately spend three years in jail.
Today, he credits a conversation with an ex-offender who mentored inmates through a program for the positive change in his outlook. Upon release, he wasted no time getting an education at a community college and then transferring to the University of Virginia (UVA), where he earned a finance degree.
His academic success would later land him a big job on Wall Street.
“The hardest part is just getting in the door, but once you’re there, it’s just based on the work you do,” said Pritchett, who stresses the importance of networking. “The value of education isn’t just what you learn. It’s also the connections, the relationships, the people you’ll get to meet and have exposure to; it gives you access.”
Pritchett has inspired people like Jonathan Wrenn, who is pursuing a degree in Computer Science at Columbia University. It was a promise he made to his grandmother, who died while he was incarcerated.
“When my grandmother asked me to pursue an education and to stop doing the things I was doing, it was really impactful,” said Wrenn, whose mother lost her battle with a terminal illness shortly after his release. “I was tired of the cycle and fearful of a very long sentence.”
Wrenn said Pritchett was the first person he met who was formally incarcerated, earned a college degree and then worked in a corporate setting after college. He said it means a lot to be mentored by him.
“He was able to give me a lot of advice and a lot of his expertise that really helped me when I was applying to college,” said Wrenn.
A survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Charles Koch Institute (CKI) suggests employers have become more open to second-chance hires in recent years.
Among the findings, 66% of HR professionals said they are willing to work with people with criminal records, up from 49% in 2018. When it comes to business leaders, 81% believe workers with criminal records perform their jobs about the same or better than workers without criminal records.
“I think that’s emblematic of a lot of people who don’t have an opportunity when they finally get one,” Pritchett said. ”You get somebody who has an appreciation that is so much stronger.”
When it comes to employers who may be interested in working with VEO Careers, Pritchett had this to say.
“Give it a shout, reach out, talk to us, understand how it works, and if you’re comfortable, take it a step further,” he said.
For more information, visit VEO Careers here. You can also contact Pritchett at email@example.com.
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