The not-for-profit legal advice sector plays a vital role in supporting the public, particularly in difficult economic times. However, in recent years, reductions in Legal Aid coupled with a rise in the number of people needing help with debt, benefits and housing issues have placed increasing pressure on a sector staffed historically by volunteers. At the same time, in some parts of the country, the number of people who are able to volunteer has been falling.
In response to these challenges, legal apprenticeship specialist Damar Training has teamed up with Citizens Advice and AdviceUK to offer a new apprenticeship qualification in Legal Advice. This provides an opportunity, for the first time, for legal advice agencies to recruit apprentices and help them develop into qualified advisers via a nationally recognised apprenticeship. For employers this opens the door to a new type of recruit as well as to Government funding to support their training. The apprenticeships are also open to existing staff in the sector looking to upskill.
For prospective apprentices, the qualification creates a route into an interesting and worthwhile branch of the wider legal sector. In their first year, apprentices receive training enabling them to provide first line advice to clients on a range of issues as well as developing valuable people skills. There are some excellent progression routes both within the legal advice sector and also into the commercial legal sector – including to the undergraduate level higher apprenticeship in legal services.
Several employers in the sector have already jumped at the opportunity. Margaret Walsh, HR Director at Manchester Citizens Advice Bureau commented:
“In partnership with Damar we are currently recruiting three legal advice apprentices. We already have four administration apprentices – also with Damar - and have benefitted in a number of ways. It has given us the chance to provide young people from local communities with training and employment opportunities and has brought new talent and skills into the organisation. The introduction of apprentices has also prompted us to develop an in-house mentoring programme, providing opportunities for other staff to develop their mentoring and coaching skills.”
Jonathan Bourne, Damar’s managing director commented:
“Apprenticeships in legal advice are a fantastic opportunity for employers and young people. Although some organisations have previously had apprentices in administrative and customer service roles they can now use Government-funded apprenticeships to recruit, develop and upskill their advisors. For apprentices, the not-for-profit legal advice sector is a great way to build experience and skills. Many employers are also eligible for an additional £1,500 Government “thank you” if they recruit an apprentice.”
The Greater Manchester Apprenticeship Hub (a project supported by the GM Combined Authority and the Skills Funding Agency) is providing financial support for the initiative in Greater Manchester where at least 30 advanced apprenticeships in Legal Advice will be created over the coming months. Damar works with the legal advice sector nationally.
For more information about legal advice apprenticeships please call Jonathan Bourne at Damar on 0161 480 8171.
Alicia Craythorne (Citizens Advice) pictured right, with prospective Legal Advice apprentices.