Making apprenticeships work: Caroline Wilson
In celebration of National Apprenticeship Week, we will be sharing a mini-series of interviews with some of our apprentices, past and present, in which they share their stories and experiences of their apprenticeship journeys at Kennedys.
This year’s theme for National Apprenticeship Week is ‘Look Beyond’, however we begin this series by looking back at Kennedys' apprenticeship journey, and its success, by speaking to our HR Director, Caroline Wilson.
Last year, we won the award for Best Degree Apprenticeship at the 2019 School Leaver Awards. It was the third consecutive year that we have won a School Leavers Award.
“Last year’s award win was particularly pleasing because it is a category that is judged by feedback from our Solicitor apprentices, and we scored 95.5%. It was an incredible achievement and, while we are always looking to improve our UK legal apprenticeship, it is testament to the work we have been doing since we launched back in 2012,” said Caroline.
Now in its seventh year, Kennedys was an early pioneer of legal apprenticeships. We have recruited 80 apprentices to date, over 75% of whom have remained with us. The scheme sees us actively recruit from schools and colleges, welcoming people in from the age of 18 - with many drivers behind this decision.
I believe passionately that a structured apprenticeship programme, that attracts the best, diverse talent, is of paramount importance to business.
Caroline Wilson, HR Director
Reflecting on the launch of our legal apprenticeships, Caroline says: “Kennedys operates in one of the world’s most important economic sectors. By introducing an alternative route to qualification, via an apprenticeship, it allows us to reach people from a much wider range of backgrounds who more accurately represent the diversity of those we work alongside. Our apprentices are in high demand internally, as everyone recognises the huge benefits the apprentices bring with them.”
Just a few months ago, Caroline and many partners attended a celebratory evening to mark Polly Crimmins-Impey and Lewis McAuley-Jones become our first legal apprentices to qualify via the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). Nicholas Read, a Litigation Executive who was also in attendance, is soon to join them. We now have 45 CILEx qualified lawyers. Polly and Nick were part of our first cohort of apprentices when the award-winning scheme launched in 2012, with Lewis joining the scheme a year later.
“We are still immensely proud to have been apprenticeship trailblazers back as far back as 2012,” says Caroline. “Since then our apprenticeship scheme has gone from strength to strength, playing a crucial part in developing new talent to drive our business forward. There is a strong ‘family’ culture at the firm, and this was reflected in the number of senior lawyers that attended the celebratory evening with Polly, Lewis and Nick. We hope that they will have long and successful careers with Kennedys.”
Helping to embed this supportive culture, we produce regular articles written by a mix of our legal apprentices and trainees that gives a glimpse of what to expect for anyone considering a career at a global law firm.
According to Caroline, one of the many benefits of an apprenticeship programme, beyond the ability to train and retain talent, is the positive impact it has on the diversity of the workforce.
“I believe passionately that a structured apprenticeship programme, that attracts the best, diverse talent, is of paramount importance to organisations and business that are considered a centre of excellence. A more diverse workforce brings with it better perspectives and ideas, which is crucial as we, as a firm, create new products and look to transform legal services for our clients. Organisations and industries that are not representative will be less equipped to relate to clients and their needs and to attract the best talent.”
For any organisations considering implementing an apprenticeship programme, Caroline’s top five tips would be:
- Make sure that you think through the career structure for apprentices and don’t just take the view it is an extra pair of hands.
- Spend time working out which organisation to partner with for the training/qualifications that will form a critical part of any apprenticeship programme.
- Consider how you are going to attract applications from students and market your organisation appropriately through social media.
- Work out your selection process carefully, bearing in mind the age and background of applicants. You can’t just apply your graduate selection process!
- Ensure there is a strong internal support system - i.e. having a network of different people to go to for guidance, as well as a supportive and experienced supervisor to encourage and provide regular feedback so apprentices have the right environment to learn and develop and add value from an early stage.
Our latest intake, in September 2019, was 21 legal apprentices and four business services apprentices.
For more information about what it is like to work at Kennedys, click here.