Embracing innovation to safeguard society and reduce reoffending

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Accelerate@Serco is a dynamic and immersive innovation programme in which new ideas and products will be championed, challenged and – if successful – chosen to help shape the future of public service delivery in the justice and immigration sector. If you have a solution with the potential to transform outcomes and make a positive difference to society, we invite you to join our team of industry leaders and take your business to the next level.

Help to make a difference every day

HMP Dovegate

We are a leading provider of public services, operating globally. Innovation is one of four core values that shape our culture and how we do business. We are always ready to challenge the status quo, champion new ideas and find ways to extend innovation to enhance business results. We seek out market disrupters who share our aspiration to be better than anyone else at what we do, whose values align to our own and whose products and services have the potential to create significant benefit for our customers and service users.

We are offering an unparalleled opportunity to step into our world and get behind the scenes with leading business and service delivery experts serving the UK justice system. Through our ten-week programme, you’ll work onsite with us – exploring key challenges in our sector, receiving specialist mentoring from our leadership team and gaining access to live operational environments for tests, trials and demonstrations.

The programme will conclude with an opportunity to secure potential investment.

Accelerate@Serco is delivered in partnership with international innovation specialists, L Marks.

What’s on offer

​Dedicated mentorship from Serco senior leadership and subject matter experts

  • A chance to develop your idea at scale in partnership with one of the largest providers of critical custodial and justice services in England & Wales, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand
  • A pot of £10,000 per startup to facilitate startup trials during the lab
  • Desk space in Hook, United Kingdom
  • Access to a wider pool of mentors and experts matched to your unique requirements.

Are you eligible to be a Prison Custody Officer?

First, you'll need to meet our essential criteria, which includes having the right to work in the UK. Beyond that, we'll check things like your eyesight and physical fitness. We'll also expect you to pass a basic maths and English test along side the ability to demonstrate the personal qualities we're looking for, when you come in for an assessment day.

These tests aren't just to make the selection process easier, they're designed to make sure you have the right skills and attitude to get the most from the role. 

If you are eligible search and apply for the latest PCO opportunities.

Our Process

If you would like to pursue a career as a Prison Custody Officer you will go through the following recruitment and training journey.

The initial recruitment process, which includes application, online tests, telephone interview and assessment day will only take approximately 4 weeks. If successful you will be required to go through strict security and vetting checks which will allow you to work in this secure environment. The checks are conducted via the Home Office and can up to 6 weeks to provide the outcome of your application.

Once you have successfully obtained your security and vetting clearance you will then start your employment with Serco and HMP. During the first 8 weeks of your employment you will go through an Initial Training Course which will equip you with the knowledge and skills required for this role, before you go in to your operational position.  

The overall process normally takes approximately 18-20 weeks.

Download Prison Custody Officer recruitment process timeline (PDF)


Click Search and Apply which will take you to the careers search – apply and confirm your right to work status.

Your application will be reviewed by one of our Talent Specialists. If you meet the criteria as set out in the advert you will be invited to complete online Maths and English tests.

If you pass the Maths and English tests you will be invited to a telephone interview with one of the Talent Specialists where they will review your application and motivations for this position. If successful you will be invited to attend an assessment centre which will be held at the establishment you have applied to.

The assessment day will usually take about 3 - 4 hours. During this time you will get a chance to meet the management team from the establishment and find out more about the prison and the role of a Prison Custody Officer. The assessments will include a competency based interview and a fitness test which will include a bleep and agility test.

There will also be time for you to complete your security and vetting forms which will be used to obtain your clearance.

Please note, HMP Thameside and HMP Kilmarnock hold the fitness testing and interview on separate days.

If you are successful following the assessments, one of our Talent Specialists will call you to make you an offer. If you verbally accept at this point we will get a formal offer of employment to you.

If there are no immediate roles available, we will put you in to our talent pool until the next opportunity arises.

The time it takes to complete your vetting varies depending on your work history and where you have lived. Whilst we are waiting for your clearance, one of the Talent Acquisition Specialists will be in touch to let you know next steps and be on hand to ask any questions you may have. We will also put you in touch with the local vetting contact who can further support you through the process.

Prison Custody Officer training takes 8 - 9 weeks and you will be offered the next place, subject to clearance. The training consists of both classroom learning and on-the job shadowing and at the end of the training you will take some tests to ensure you are competent to become a Prison Custody Officer. 

Find out more

Frequently asked questions

FAQPlease see a list of questions we regularly get asked, hopefully you will find the answer below, if not please use the contact us form and we will be in touch as soon as possible,


As a minimum you will have to be 18 to apply for a Prison Custody Officer role, if you are not 18 there are other roles that could be available to you.

Maths and English at a minimum key skills level 2 or equivalent.

Our Prison Custody Officers come from very diverse backgrounds. It is more important for you to have the right people skills including excellent verbal and written communication, ability to exercise authority as well as maintaining your integrity and professionalism in a variety of challenging situations. Fantastic observation skills is a must!

Yes, each establishment operates various shift patterns which will include early / lates / days / evenings and night shifts.

You will need to have a valid passport or birth certificate together with a valid permit or visa, if applicable, which shows your right to live and remain in the UK.

If you’re on a morning session, then please arrive in smart business-wear and bring a change of clothes for the fitness testing. If you’re on an afternoon session, then please arrive in fitness-wear and bring a change of clothes for the interview.

Please note, this will differ for HMP Thameside and HMP Kilmarnock.

Within our custodial establishments there is career progression, if you wish to continue with you PCO career you can move in to a management role you can become a Custodial Operations Manager and then Assistant Director and Deputy Director. There are also other departments within the custodial establishments that you can move in to such as; psychology, industries, education and security.

As a large organisation we do have various roles available both within the Justice and Immigration Sector and broader Serco Group.

Yes, this will be provided for you during your Initial Training Course.

You will be assigned a buddy during your first few weeks.

This can vary depending on the establishment, but if you are added in to the talent pool you will have regular contact with the talent specialist where they will provide updates and provisional start dates.

The Initial Training Course (ITC) is an 8 - 9 week intensive training course during which 100% attendance is mandatory. If you have holiday booked during this time period and you are not able to re arrange, we will invite you to the next available course.

Yes, you will be paid. When you start the ITC this is the first day of your employment with Serco.

The reason that you have to successfully pass the fitness tests is because being a PCO can be physically demanding, and we need to ensure you have a level of fitness to respond to any emergency situations that may arise.

The ITC will be held at the establishment you have been successful at – there won’t be any requirement to stay away from home.