THIS GENERATION OF LEGAL TALENT IS LIKELY TO BE MOST DIVERSE EVER.
Why? Probably because of an explosion of apprenticeships in the legal sector.
Black Country 2.0 partner FBC Manby Bowdler was one of the first law firms in the UK to introduce a work-based learning programme since then more than 15 apprentices have walked through the doors of the award-winning legal practice to take on various roles within the business.
Sarah Bond-Williams, HR director at FBC Manby Bowdler, tells us more...
At FBC Manby Bowdler, we recognised early on that the traditional route to becoming a lawyer through university was not always an option for talented and enthusiastic individuals. We want to recruit from all different backgrounds and also from the communities in which our offices are based.
We launched our first work-based learning programme with an apprenticeship scheme in 2016, and we haven’t looked back since.
In England across the 2019/20 year, 29 per cent of all apprenticeship starters were in the Business Administration and Law sector, the highest proportioned sector in the country, and the equivalent of over 94,400 new apprentices.
Of course, apprenticeships have seen a resurgence across a number of sectors in the last few years, offering a hugely viable training framework option for young people. Over the years, the UK apprenticeship scheme has had numerous revamps and overhauls, the latest being in May 2017, where the apprenticeship levy was introduced.
What we’ve found is that the system results in highly trained apprenticeship graduates with hands-on work experience, and enthusiasm and insight for the industry in which they have trained.
Apprentices also bring huge benefits to their host organisation.
A recent Government report highlighted that 78 per cent of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity and 74 per cent said that incorporating apprentices into their team helped them improve the quality of their product or service.
And while many may automatically think of school or college leavers as the typical apprentice candidate, thousands of older and experienced employees become apprentices every year as they decide to reskill or gain additional experience in their current role.
For these apprentices, the system can also support developing and upskilling existing teams. Apprenticeship training can help to fill key skills gaps and boost motivation and retention by investing in staff development.
This route could be particularly poignant as many organisations have shifted their focus of service over the uncertainty of the past year during the Covid crisis.
In 2021, the In-Comm Training Barometer report found more than 22 per cent of businesses invested in apprentices to fulfil a skills gap, retain skills in the business or upskill the existing workforce during and preparing for post-pandemic.
But regardless of the apprenticeship route and choosing the candidate which you think is right for your business, it’s certainly not simply a case of hire and hope for the best.
Working with recognised and seasoned training providers, such as BPP University for legal apprenticeships, and In-Comm, for business apprentices — these organisations provide the ongoing support and facilities to make your plan a success.
This also means that you can understand the nuances of the training programme before hiring, to ensure that each candidate can be guided effectively throughout their qualification.
Planning the in-workplace tasks and responsibilities so that they complement the apprentice’s studies and engaging with line managers will also support the programme success, while a well-structured onboarding plan with clear communication is key.
Successful apprenticeship schemes often incorporate mentoring, induction weeks, clear role definitions and responsibilities, and clear objectives.
At FBC Manby Bowdler, we have designed a full induction process for our apprentices, introducing them to our values, our ethos, our culture of stellar service and yes, the expectations we have of them as they join one of the top legal teams in the Midlands.
Most recently, we have welcomed a business administration apprentice to our fold, who will support our existing client support team to achieve and excel in our service offering. This recruit specifically highlighted that a route through university wasn’t suitable for her, but the attraction of on-the-job training and a formal qualification at the end has allowed her to follow her ambitions.
However, it’s not just in client support roles that we have found apprenticeship success. We now have four solicitors who joined us through the apprenticeship route and this year advertised two paralegal apprentices, and two apprentice solicitor roles, specifically highlighting that we would be interested in hearing from people who identified as LGBTQ+.
The more diverse and reflective of our community we make our workforces, the better it is for business.