Alan Milburn praises Yorkshire law firm’s apprenticeship scheme

Monday 12th November 2012

Click here to watch video highlights of the debate on social mobility.

Leading government social mobility adviser Alan Milburn has praised the groundbreaking apprenticeship scheme operated by Yorkshire law firm Gordons.

The Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission was commenting on the firm’s initiative offering on-the-job legal training each year to bright 18-year-olds from underprivileged areas who would otherwise be denied access to the profession.

Mr Milburn said: “Through its innovative apprenticeship scheme, Gordons is leading the way on social mobility in the legal profession.”

The former Health Secretary was addressing about 50 senior Yorkshire business people at an event in Leeds. He said there were four key contributions industry could make to enable youngsters from less privileged backgrounds to fulfil their potential.

Mr Milburn said: “First, employers can help kids open their eyes and raise their aspirations. We need more initiatives that give kids an idea of what a job in the legal profession, for example, can actually look like.

“Secondly, we need to broaden the range of talent and areas from which we recruit. The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, for example, focus exclusively their degree-level recruitment on 19 of Britain’s 150 universities. Nobody is telling me talent is confined to those few universities – it exists in all of them, and in all our schools and colleges.”

Mr Milburn said his third aim was for businesses to be much fairer in constructing work experience and internship programmes and making these more readily available to all regardless of who they know or where they come from.

He said: “This year, a third of graduate employment will go to people who already have some experience or been interns. But, all too often, work experience and internships are handed out on the basis of who you know, not what you know. I believe they should be governed by the rules applying in the formal economy, which means recruiting openly.”

Raising his fourth point, Mr Milburn said more entry points into professional careers were needed.

He said: “The qualification inflation of recent years means we deal with risk better in some professions but inadvertently we’ve excluded a whole stratum of society from them. Things like Gordons’ apprenticeship scheme are important means of diversifying intakes, as they open up multiple entry points.”

Mr Milburn said none of these ambitions would be easy for businesses to realise, as success could only come through challenging convention.

But he added: “Achieving these goals will give the kids recruited opportunities they would otherwise never have had and employers more diverse workforces. Diversity is a strength, not a weakness.”

Also speaking at the seminar were Lawrence Tomlinson, chair of the Leeds-based LNT Group, who last month became the Institute of Directors’ national Director of the Year, and Paul Ayre, managing partner with Gordons, which organised the event.

One of the UK’s most successful law firms with offices in Leeds and Bradford. Gordons has been established for over 168 years, currently employs 280 people and has a turnover of over £25m. Gordons’ excellence has been recognised in a number of award schemes this year:

  • Yorkshire’s Best Business with a turnover between £10m and £50m at the Yorkshire Post’s Business Excellence Awards
  • Private Client Team of the Year and Managing Partner of the Year in the Yorkshire Lawyer Awards
  • UK and Ireland Regional Team of the Year in the STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) Private Client Awards
  • Property Law Firm of the Year category in the Yorkshire Property Industry Awards
  • Highly Commended in the Excellence in Community Investment category of the Law Society Excellence Awards
  • Runner-up in the Regional Law Firm of the Year in the Lawyer Awards
  • Shortlisted Outstanding Employer of the Year at the Yorkshire Post’s Business Excellence Awards.
  • Shortlisted for Diversity Initiative of the Year at the British Legal Awards
  • Shortlisted for the Excellence in the Learning and Development Award category at the Law Society Excellence Awards

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