Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

Focus on your future with expert advice from your careers advisers

Employer Monday: Unlocked Grads

📥  Career Choice, Employer Visit Report, Labour Market Intelligence, Sector Insight

Hey everybody, Employer Services Manager here again – for more employer insights! If you read my previous blogs you’ll recall I often talk to employers to find out how they might like to work with Universities and recruit our students. As I’ve said before; I’m not a Careers Advisor, this blog post is not about giving advice or guidance, but I’m happy to share my experiences with you! I sometimes get carried away with my giddiness at learning about new places so please make sure to double-check my account against official websites…

And also remember that whilst I am officially an adult, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and my fickle ambitions change every time I speak to a new employer!

The employer I’ll tell you about today is a bit different – Unlocked Grads.

Who are they?

Due to the nature of their business (which I’ll explain in due course), I didn’t visit Unlocked Grads but rather had lengthy conversations with them. Set up by the Ministry of Justice on the back of a 2015 commissioned report, Unlocked Grads is a relatively new organisation.

The premise of their business is basically recruiting graduates into prison jobs. It really intrigued me – I have never had ambitions to work in prisons but it definitely piqued my interest when I considered the opportunities and challenges! Surely it is rewarding to contribute to someone’s rehabilitation back into society? But at the same time, it’s all a bit scary!! And how do they make this appealing to graduates?

So what is it all about?

Unlocked Grads offer a two year programme of experience in the prison service with the opportunity to complete a masters. The scheme is open to career-changers as well as graduates and they aren’t worried about your degree discipline or previous work experience. You just need a 2:1 and some specific attributes including all the usual stuff; leadership, decision-making, resilience, motivation and then – my favourite – ‘a sense of possibility’. Their website says ‘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’, and I think that’s really inspiring! Prison Officers don’t just jangle keys and lock people up, the British justice system is built upon the principles of rehabilitation and reintegration, so Prison Officers are also required to provide support, encouragement and ultimately a ‘role model’.
Unlocked Grads encourages graduates – who become Entry Level Prison Officers - to build positive relationships with inmates in order to encourage rehabilitation and ultimately prevent re-offending. And surely, if you get it right, that’s a pretty rewarding job?

The programme lasts for two years and then you can walk away with your Masters. Unlocked Grads are working with large corporates to identify opportunities for careers after completion. But I guess, whilst you do not have to stay with the Prison Service, they are probably hoping some will! And if you leave, they will have had enthusiastic, educated graduates who have provided two years of service as a minimum.

The first cohort started in summer 2017 so the longer term outcomes and results are yet to be seen but it is definitely one I’ll be watching. 60 new recruits took up positions in 6 prisons in and around London and I’ll keep my eyes peeled for any updates or success stories and share them here. I’m guessing it looks pretty impressive on a CV? If you can hold your own in a prison environment, a corporate boardroom would seem like a breeze!

I might get to work on my ‘sense of possibility’ and consider that career change…

If prison work sounds a little out of your comfort zone, make sure you check out Teach First which is a similar programme but in schools rather than prisons!

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