Last week was National Apprenticeship Week, and a busy one for Lyons Davidson! As the Senior Manager responsible for our legal apprenticeships strategy, it has been a particularly hectic one for me, including meeting with both the Law Society Wales office and the Law Society of Scotland (LSS).
In fact it is a particularly busy time for legal apprenticeships in general, with Trailblazers taking off and people getting to grips with the levy. I am currently planning how we make the most of our levy contributions in England and we hope to be advertising very soon for legal apprentices to start in September this year – watch this space!
In Wales and Scotland, apprenticeships are devolved to the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. This means different funding arrangements, different frameworks and different challenges.
Legal apprenticeships in Wales
Lyons Davidson was involved in the development of the Level 4 and Level 7 apprenticeships in Wales, and took part in the Level 4 pilot. However programme has been slow to pick up across Wales and, as such, training providers are struggling to deliver it sustainably. I had the pleasure of speaking at the Law Society Wales event on 6 March, where I highlighted the opportunities that could be missed if we as an industry don’t work together to keep apprenticeships going.
Rather than a lack of interest, it seems to be a lack of knowledge about how to get started with legal apprenticeships that is holding many firms back. The structures behind the scenes can be quite complex, as can figuring out how the funding works. I am working with the Law Society and Welsh Government to address this and hope to be able to get legal apprenticeships in Wales back on track in time for the coming academic year.
Legal apprenticeships in Scotland
It has been a few years since the framework for Modern Apprenticeships in Paralegal Practice was approved but, as yet, there are no training providers delivering it – again, citing lack of interest from the profession. The topic has been raised again recently within the consultation into alternative routes to qualification launched by LSS, where a solicitor-level apprenticeship is suggested as a potential new route.
This is a step beyond the more junior-level apprenticeships framework that already exists, but to me this seems an opportune time to revisit this, not least as a stepping stone for the more advanced qualification.
Why employ legal apprentices?
Apprenticeships bring advantages for all involved. For the apprentice, it brings debt-free qualification, a clear career path into the firm they train with, and the chance to learn in a hands-on way that suits many people above the standalone classroom method. For the employer, it brings improved staff retention and engagement, government contribution to staff training (albeit which will differ between the jurisdictions) and a way to train existing staff as well as recruit new talent to the business.
The success of the Trailblazer apprenticeships in England will hopefully gee on Wales and Scotland to get their programmes moving too.