Be a change maker: Find out how to make an impact at Unlocked Graduates

Created on 23rd Aug 2018

How are participants at Unlocked Graduates making a positive social impact

Unlocked Graduates mission is to address the UK’s re-offending rates and their social and financial cost. 44% of prisoners re-offend and this rises to 59% for prisoners serving shorter sentences. This costs the UK £15 billion a year, not to mention the impact on victims.

As a Prison Officer, you will have the opportunity to make a meaningful, hands-on difference to the lives of prisoners. From supporting them to find a job or secure a home, to helping them to manage their mental wellbeing, your work will be crucial for their futures. Unlocked Graduate’s unique holistic training programme, which includes prison officer training as well as learning best practice from social work and teaching, prepares you to help prisoners to not re-offend.

Furthermore, you’ll also have an impact on the wider justice and prison system. You’ll complete a fully funded MSc in Leadership and Custodial Environments and uniquely be invited to make suggestions on how the wider system can be improved. The recommendations of this year’s cohort have already been put in place at the prison (suggestions have included better ways to dispense medication to prisoners on a wing and improving fundamental processes in the regime).  In your second year you will even get to write a policy that will be delivered to the Secretary of State.

What makes the Unlocked Graduates Leadership Development Programme unique?

The programme offers a unique opportunity to make a significant individual impact in a part of society that is little accessed, while also developing your own skills. So far, participants have: helped prisoners go into rehab; learnt sign language to aid deaf prisoners; supported prisoners to maintain social lives by ensuring their family visits take place; and have even saved lives by administering first aid. The system is in many ways broken and in need of new and innovative ideas – join the programme and become a thought leader, using your skills to bring about crucial reform.

In your second year, you have the chance to apply your transferable skills through a work placement in a partner organisation. These firms include PWC, EY and the Ministry of Justice. This makes the Unlocked Graduates graduate programme a meaningful way to stand out in competitive sectors and kickstart your career.

What skills will members build through this Leadership Development Programme?

Participants on the programme develop essential transferable skills and demonstrate their ability to apply these in a high-pressure and fast-moving environment.

  1. Leadership – Leading change on the frontline, you’ll develop the decision making and management skills that can take you to the boardroom.
  2. Communication & Relationship Building – You’ll build positive professional relationships with people from very different backgrounds to yourself. This requires empathy and the ability to identify key players.
  3. Resilience – You’ll be required to deal with a multitude of high-stakes situations and will develop your ability to multi-task and prioritise.

What might members go on to do after completing the Leadership Development Programme?

Last year was our first cohort and they are still moving through the programme, excited about the varied career opportunities becoming available to them. The work placement in the second year allows participants to stand out to key employers and secure a role in competitive sectors including Professional Services, Law and Charity. Participants will also have developed policy writing experience, which provides you with the foundation for a successful career in government.

Wherever you go on to work, you will add a knowledgeable voice that challenges common misconceptions around prisons and prisoners. You could even go on to encourage firms to employ ex-prisoners.

What skills and experience can members build while at university to create a stand out application?

And what are the stages of the application process?

We do not have set experience requirements for graduates on our programme other than that they need to have achieved a 2:1 and a grade C in Maths and English at GCSE level. We look for members who meet our core attributes. They are motivated by our mission, resilient, demonstrate leadership skills and a self-awareness, namely the ability to learn from their mistakes. Furthermore, they need to demonstrate that they have decision making and relationship building skills and importantly, a sincere belief that everyone has the capacity to change.

If you are successful with the online application form you will then be invited to a video interview and finally an assessment centre. At the assessment centre, you will be interviewed by an ex-prisoner and prison officer, take part in a group activity and join a role play with an actor.

If you do want to build transferable skills that will support you to get the most out of the programme, you could engage with the wider community while at university. For example, you could volunteer at a homeless centre, work with children from disadvantaged environments or even do tutoring. This helps you to develop your communication and relationship management skills to thrive at Unlocked.

What is the working culture like at Unlocked?

You will work alongside a cohort of bright people who share your values and passion. Throughout the programme you will reflect on your experiences and share best practice, as well as being fully supported by a dedicated/ experienced? mentor. We place participants in groups of six persons minimum, some groups are as big as 12-14 people. You’ll get to know each other really well and probably chose to live together. The nature of shift work means that you have flexibility and the ability to enjoy London midweek. After a night shift you can take the following week off giving you a great amount of holiday time. You will also receive your schedule at the beginning of the programme so you can plan those holidays in.

There is also a huge amount of camaraderie in prisons amongst the staff due to the challenging nature of the job. You will work with people from a wide range of different backgrounds who you will be able to learn from, gain support and build lasting friendships with.