New prison officer grad scheme unveils first participants from 100s of applications

++ Women candidates secure 8 out of 10 places on inaugural cohort ++
++ CEO responds to latest Government announcement on prison workforce numbers ++

After a rigorous selection process, Unlocked Graduates – the new prison officer graduate scheme – today unveiled its inaugural cohort. The Unlocked Graduates programme was launched in January and candidates had just eight weeks to submit an application. During this time, 600 top graduates vied for just 40 places, with thousands more registering their interest. The overwhelming interest in the scheme could lead to an increase in the number of participants being placed in the first wave this year.

More than 2,000 recent graduates and career changers expressed interest in the scheme, with 600 submitting an application. Nearly 200 then went through a demanding multi-stage assessment process, a key element of which was having their communication and leadership skills tested by a current prison officer and former prison officer. They had to prove their resilience and ability to deal with difficult situations through a very challenging role play. The scheme aimed to place 40 people in their first year, but the standard of applications was so high that it is now likely more places will be filled.

In the first cohort, 8 in 10 of Unlocked participants will be women, while 1 in 5 (20%) of those starting work in prisons this September will come from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.

The selection of the first 50 graduates bucks the national trend of recruitment.  Just seven per cent of staff in prisons come from an ethnic minority background while just over 37 per cent of UK prison officers are female.

The participants will begin working in six prisons across London and the south east – HMP Brixton, Coldingley, Downview, High Down, Isis and Wandsworth where demand for prison officers is highest.

Natasha Porter, CEO of Unlocked Graduates said:

“Many people did not believe that the role of the prison officer could ever appeal to graduates. The overwhelming interest in our programme shows an incredible desire from graduates to tackle one of the major social challenges of our time and a recognition that the challenging role of a prison officer will equip you for many future careers. We are particularly pleased that our first graduates will so visibly challenge what a ‘typical’ prison officer looks like.”

Prisons Minister, Sam Gyimah MP said:

“I am delighted to welcome the new Unlocked Graduates who will be joining the thousands of dedicated and hard-working staff who already undertake such important work to keep our prisons and the public safe.”

Clo, a recent Cambridge University graduate and one of Unlocked Graduates’ first participants said:

“Working as a prison officer was not something I had ever considered before hearing about this programme. But when I really thought about it, I realised it would be one of the most challenging and rewarding roles I could ever do. I know it will be really difficult at times, but I also think the skills I will gain will help me to cope with the challenges of many jobs in the future.”

Increasing prison officer numbers 

The release of the latest information about the Unlocked Graduate programme came as the Ministry of Justice announced their latest recruitment numbers. Responding to these, Natasha Porter, CEO of Unlocked Graduates said:

“It is very encouraging to see these numbers growing so strongly. The challenges facing prisons have never been greater and we will not be able to tackle them until the workforce is large enough to have the capacity to focus on rehabilitation rather than just safety.

“The Unlocked Graduate scheme is not designed to answer the shortage challenge but we will be attracting officers with a wider range of backgrounds into the job. We hope that by raising the status of the prison officer role on campuses around the country we will see more and more excellent graduates consider prison officer alongside social worker, teacher or police officer as an interesting and challenging career.”

Notes to editors

For more information or interviews contact

Sarah Pearson
sarah.pearson@unlockedgrads.org.uk
07855 816 379