How Unlocked Graduates won ISE Graduate Development Programme of the Year

Oct 13, 2023 | Case studies, Development, Home Featured

Unlocked Graduates explain how they have made their Leadership Development Programme award winning.

To deliver a programme that successfully develops future leaders to be changemakers, an evidence-based curriculum, intensive training, tailored support and a real focus on culture is the root to success.

The challenge

Reoffending is a blight on the UK. It wastes potential, fractures families and communities, and costs us billions of pounds every year. And, to a large extent, it’s preventable.

The solution

Unlocked Graduates recruit, train and challenge outstanding graduates to lead prisoner rehabilitation with the aim of creating high-performing leaders who will break the cycles of reoffending.

How we do it

Training and support are consistent across the Unlocked Graduates two-year leadership development programme to develop the skills of our graduate cohorts.

This starts with our Summer Institute, which is practice-based and gives participants all the practical skills they need, whilst also giving them ample opportunities to engage with the ‘bigger picture’ of what works, what doesn’t and what they are going to do about it.

There are three core packages of our training: equalities, effective communication and operational training.

After Summer Institute 2022, 93% of Unlocked participants felt prepared or very well prepared by the training they had received.

Participants on the programme have consistent support from sector trained mentors, with access to over 100 hours of coaching. Participants are seen by their mentor every week for either a 45-minute one-to-one session or one-hour group supervision.

There is wraparound support across the programme including bespoke ongoing training sessions, estate specific training and continuous professional development.

The fully funded Masters’ programme provides participants with rich opportunities including a research project which is shared with key stakeholders in the criminal justice sector.

All participants are given the opportunity to do a two-week work placement. They also have the opportunity to apply for innovation grants to create their own projects inside their establishments.

The vast majority of our participants are successful on this programme – one of our most recent cohorts achieved a 97% graduation rate.

One ex-prisoner said, “The Unlocked officers were just very consistent… That kind of a relationship with a prison officer really does make you change your ways.”

100% of prison governors we recently surveyed said they would recommend Unlocked Graduates.

Looking to the future

Unlocked Graduates is working to mainstream elements of our successful programme. There are regular asks to share learning, resources, and training.

We see our participants as agents of change within the prison system. What they do affects change on the landings. We are proud of their impact.

Examples include reducing self-harm by 37% over a three-month period in HMP Belmarsh, increasing employment opportunities for 280 ex-prisoners from HMP Wandsworth and reducing the number of failed drug tests in HMP Pentonville by 37%.

There is a huge suite of resources for our ambassadors (previous participants). This includes international trips, individual coaching sessions on CVs, interviews and networking and bespoke sessions. Ambassadors have specific support for promotions in to HMPPS and the MoJ.

Over half of participants currently on the programme have been promoted or taken on additional responsibility. Almost half of ambassadors who are still working in prisons are in middle or senior leadership.

Since launch, we have placed over 700 prison officers in 37 prisons, and, as of last year, we are receiving 30 applicants for each place on the programme.

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