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The bigger the challenge the better the leader

Ryan, 2017 COHORT

The bigger the challenge the better the leader

What we’re looking for Back to top

Unlocked Graduates is a demanding programme and you will need a special combination of attributes and skills both to gain entry to the programme and to be successful in the role.

Watch the video below to find out more about the attributes you’ll need:

Unlocked Graduates offers a world-class programme of accelerated leadership development training and experience that will help you to realise your potential and access influential roles across a variety of sectors. You will also have the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to address a very significant problem for the UK as a whole, and delivering life-changing support to the individuals you work with.

But this is not an easy option. You’ll be working with demanding people in a challenging and sometimes pressured environment. You will have to confront issues that are unpalatable, and deal with people who may not conform to usual codes of behaviour.

To be successful in engaging prisoners and helping them to make the changes necessary to reintegrate with society, you will need a particular blend of attributes.

We don’t expect you to be the finished article when you apply, but you will need to show that you have the potential to develop each of these attributes to a high standard. Explore some real life prison scenarios and test how you would respond.

#Sense of possibility

You need to believe in the capabilities of people and systems to change for the better. You need to have a positive outlook and have the courage to drive forward transformational change in society as well as at an individual level. You will seek out every opportunity to work with individuals to rehabilitate themselves in the prison environment.


You are a leader from day one as an Unlocked officer. You will need to develop mutual respect with those you work with and be authoritative yet empathetic to individuals in your care. You will need to demonstrate a sense of responsibility in adhering to the prison regime and promoting the protection of those you work with. You will be influential in changing attitudes and act with integrity with regards to professional boundaries.


You will be required to make quick, informed and objective decisions based on the information provided. You will need to act with confidence and decisively in pressured situations, weighing up the pros and cons to decide on the best course of action. In a demanding prison environment, it is important that you can organise and prioritise your activities effectively.

#Relationship building

It is fundamental for you, as an Unlocked officer, to be able to talk with and build relationships with people from all walks of life. You will need to be non-judgemental, approachable and supportive whilst also understanding the boundaries of these relationships. As part of a cohort you will build key relationships, support each other and you will work together with prison officer colleagues to create a positive environment.


You will need to develop key coping strategies and be able to deal with difficult situations involving vulnerable people. You will remain calm when faced with challenges and work to find an effective solution. You will aim to make progress with the people you are working with, despite possible obstacles and setbacks.


As a prison officer you will need to understand how you work best. You will constantly reflect on how you deal with various situations and work to further develop your skills based on feedback and self-reflection. You will have good knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses and constantly evaluate your progress.


We want participants who are committed to our vision to rehabilitate prisoners and reduce the costs of re-offending. You will prove your commitment through your two years as a prison officer and be motivated to continue to promote this work in your future career. You will act with integrity and moral courage throughout your time on the programme.


#Entry requirements

You do not have to have specific knowledge or experience of the prison service to apply. Instead, we are looking at your potential to be a part of the programme to make an impact on prisoners’ lives.

In order to apply to Unlocked from Autumn 2019, you must fulfil the following minimum requirements:

  • Have, or be expecting to receive, at least a 2:1 undergraduate degree qualification by July 2020 or equivalent*
  • Grade C GCSE English and Maths
  • Have the right to work in the UK for the duration of the programme (two years)

The Unlocked two-year leadership development programme is available to graduates who have not yet undergone prison officer training, therefore existing prison officers are not eligible to apply.

*If you have just missed this threshold, you are still welcome to apply but you must demonstrate a very high level of the personal attributes we are looking for. There is also space on the application form to state any extenuating or mitigating circumstances for your academic results.