On Monday, 23 September I spoke at the launch of the Welsh Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services (HALS) at the Welsh Assembly/Senedd in Cardiff. On the panel of speakers with me was Liz Field, CEO of the Financial and Legal Skills Partnership, Chris Sweetman from Kaplan Altior (who currently provide the apprenticeship training in Wales) and Ken Skates, the Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology.
It has been six months since the launch of the English Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services and since I spoke about it in the House of Lords. A lot has happened in that time:
- Level 4 apprenticeships are up and running in England;
- Level 3 is nearly ready to launch in England;
- Level 4 has launched in Wales;
- Work has started on Level 3 in Wales;
- An apprenticeship framework has been developed in Scotland;
- Steps are being taken to explore development in Northern Ireland;
- We are nearly ready to start on Level 7 (the groundbreaker)…
- …and Lyons Davidson is currently recruiting its first Legal Apprentice in the Cardiff office.
This is a massive amount to have achieved in such a short space of time and demonstrates just how important this is to the legal sector. Apprenticeships don’t work without employer support and the turnout at the Welsh Assembly on Monday showed how much employers are backing the project. While there were some technical aspects discussed about the apprenticeships themselves and how they fit into the sector, the main theme for the evening was one of celebration.
I was asked to speak from an employers’ perspective about why we are involved in apprenticeships and what we see for them in the future. Preparing for the talk was a good opportunity for me to reflect on why I am involved in the project, as well as why we, as a company, are investing in it.
From a business perspective, apprenticeships just make sense. Any form of training and development helps with retention, boosts morale and increases productivity. Continuity affords a better service provision and brings savings on recruitment and training costs long-term. It also allows companies to shape people to the business – and of course the end product is someone with qualifications and experience. You can’t get better than that.
From a personal perspective, this is about fairness and opportunity. University isn’t for everyone for various reasons, whether because of the cost, because it’s not the way they learn best or because they simply want to get on and start working. There are so many people with potential who don’t get the chance to realise it. Apprenticeships already have and will continue to widen access to the legal profession, and to make a career in law a possibility for some who may never have thought they could pursue it. To me, that is the best reason of all.
This is an exciting time and there is more ahead for the development of apprenticeships; we at Lyons Davidson are delighted to be at the heart of it.