Category: Blog


Bolu is in her final year at Sheffield University, studying Law. She’s currently thinking about doing a master’s abroad but is still interested in a career in the criminal justice system.

Why did you want to work for Unlocked Graduates?

Unlocked Graduates uses innovative ideas to look at tackling reoffending and making sure those who commit crimes are helped to go back into the community. I study law and I’m interested in the way that law impacts communities.

What do you think makes Unlocked Graduates stand out from other opportunities?

You’ve got to be passionate about what you’re representing, that’s very important. You need to be engaged with the message you’re trying to give to others. I was interested in what Unlocked Graduates were doing, so I could speak passionately about it. The flexibility and support we were given made it stand out to me. With Unlocked, I could bring in my ideas, which is important because everyone’s different and works in different ways.

How would you describe your role as an Unlocked Graduates Brand Manager?

It was probably one of the most rewarding jobs because I improved myself as a person, in terms of skills and confidence. I started dialogues with other Brand Managers and was able to use my social media platforms and society connections to communicate and network with people. I was spreading the word about a graduate scheme that people thought was really unconventional! Seeing it on their face was the best thing for me, I could connect and have productive conversations. I could challenge misconceptions about a role that has negative connotations that often aren’t accurate. People felt like they could have a direct impact on crime levels – and that was fantastic to see.

What advice would you give to someone applying for the role?

You have to be passionate, that’s the most important thing. You don’t want someone who’s just looking for a part time job, you need to care about the cause. You also need strong communication skills and good organisation. I really enjoyed the training, I got to meet some of the other Brand Managers and felt like a part of a bigger network.

What have you gained from the experience?

The role has taught me a lot about myself. Being a Brand Manager was not my only part time job so I had to organise my time effectively. It taught me that when I truly believe in something it’s really easy to talk about it. I found myself talking about it all the time! I now know that when you want something you really need to go for it 100% and make sure you bring your best self, that you prepare and know what you’re talking about and what to expect.

Interested in developing your skills whilst also fitting paid work around your studies? Unlocked Graduates are recruiting Brand Managers for universities across the country – apply here.

Conference visit – “Best Practice in Mental Health”

Unlocked Graduate Scarlett blogs about a recent academic conference she attended:

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a conference on ‘Best Practice in Mental Health in the Criminal Justice System,’ hosted by the Centre for Mental Health. This piece cannot do all of the many brilliant speakers justice, but here are some insights from the day – ones which really stood out to me as a Prison Officer.

This focus is particularly important because I was immediately struck by the fact that I was the only Prison Officer at the conference. I was fortunate enough to have been able to book annual leave to be there (which is often tricky for prison staff!), and to have my ticket paid for by the amazing Unlocked Participant Development Fund. The many thought-provoking points made during this day-long conference re-affirmed my belief in how vital it is that we make frontline staff a part of academic debate that can affect change.

Read more Conference visit – “Best Practice in Mental Health”

Brand Manager Interview: Cherilyn

Cherilyn is in her final year at The University of Warwick studying International Business with French. She wanted to apply to the Unlocked Graduate scheme and thought the Brand Manager role was a good way to learn more about the organisation, the mission statement and recruitment process. Cherilyn has now been accepted onto the Unlocked Graduates’ 2018 cohort and will start her job as a prison officer in September.

Why did you want to work for Unlocked Graduates?

I was originally motivated to apply to Unlocked Graduates because it’s such a unique opportunity – you get the chance to make a difference in the role which is so different to other schemes. You also study for a fully-funded Master’s and contribute to a policy paper. I’ve always wanted to drive change but it’s difficult to find a graduate programme that allows you to have such a massive impact.

In my role as a Brand Manager I was hoping to find out more about the organisation; I thought the mission statement was absolutely incredible – the dedication to reducing reoffending is so important.

Read more Brand Manager Interview: Cherilyn

Unlocked Graduates launches 2018 Cohort

Successful applicants gather in London to learn more about the Unlocked Graduates programme:

On Saturday 10th April Unlocked Graduates hosted our second annual Cohort Launch Event in central London. Following months of applications and assessments, the event brought together most of the new participants who will make up our second cohort of pioneering prison officers. It was a chance to get excited about the opportunities and challenges they will take on if they successfully complete the programme.

Natasha Porter, founder and CEO of Unlocked Graduates, kicked off the day by setting out those challenges. Prisons across the country are, despite the best efforts of those who work there, struggling to offer rehabilitation. Not only are reoffending rates high, but those who offend often have multiple complex issues that frequently aren’t addressed. As Natasha made clear, it was precisely this situation that brought the audience to the room that day: “The problems in prisons are now your problems – your problems to help fix.”

Read more Unlocked Graduates launches 2018 Cohort

Conference visit – “Redesigning Justice”

Unlocked Graduate Mollie blogs about a recent academic conference she attended:

I was given the opportunity by Unlocked Graduates to attend a recent conference organised by the Howard League for Penal Reform – “Redesigning Justice: Promoting civil rights, trust and fairness conference” – on the 21-22 March 2018 in Oxford.

It very quickly became clear that I was the only person out of the many, many people at the conference who did NOT have a PhD or 20+ years of experience in a field. Despite this being intimidating, it was very inspirational for me to meet numerous people who have achieved a lot and contributed so much to the world that I am only just entering.

Read more Conference visit – “Redesigning Justice”

Cells locked-up thanks to one of our supporters

Our first participants will soon be marking 100 days as prison officers so it’s a good opportunity to look back and remember supporters who have helped make it possible for us to equip our participants with the skills they need to make a difference in the prison services.

One of the most unusual offers of help came from Safestore Self Storage in Chiswick who kindly donated free storage space for our temporary training prison cells.

Critical to our training approach is giving our trainees every chance to practice key skills in as realistic a setting as possible. These cells sat in the back of every classroom to help our participants learn how to enter and carry out cell searches. Finding the space for three flat-pack prison cells was no small matter so this was an incredibly generous offer!

The Store Manager kindly removed part of the front of the unit to allow us to get the cells in.  Dan Joslyn, Store Manager at Chiswick said:

“We’re happy to be able to support the work that Unlocked Graduates do to tackle the damage and cost of prisoner reoffending. They offer such a great programme in training talented graduates to become prison officers.

“As a company, Safestore are constantly looking to support charities in the best way possible and we hope that the space will enable the charity to focus on their core activities without the added storage costs.”

Bright Network: Why I joined Unlocked Graduates

Sabrina tells us about what inspired her to apply for the Unlocked Graduate Scheme.

Hi, I’m Sabrina, I recently graduated in BSc Psychology from Aston University in July 2016. I wasn’t exactly sure what route I wanted to take after my degree, however I knew I wanted a role where I could be a source of support or mentor people who needed it and help change lives.

Read more Bright Network: Why I joined Unlocked Graduates