Making the most of your Apprenticeship Levy

Law firms can support young people to follow a career in sustainability and corporate responsibility by using their Apprenticeship Levy more efficiently. Rob Powell explains how he started a scheme at his firm, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

It always bothered me that there wasn’t an apprenticeship pathway for people interested in a career in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CRS).

Such an entry-point would represent a significant milestone in the maturity of CRS as a profession and undoubtedly have a positive impact on the diversity of its practitioners.

That’s why in 2019, with the support of my colleagues at Weil, I set out to form a group of peers from businesses (known as a ‘Trailblazer Group’) to develop an apprenticeship for CRS – the qualification would be the first of its kind in the country.

Fast forward two years and, in May 2021, the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education formally approved the Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Practitioner (Level 4).

A new route for apprentices

This first-of-a-kind apprenticeship offers a brand new entry route for young people and for existing employees in other occupations who may wish to transfer into a CRS role.

To promote the apprenticeship, we teamed up with Heart of the City and the London Progression Collaboration to launch ‘The Sustainable 50’, a campaign to get the business community excited and engaged at the prospect of the CRS apprenticeship with the aim of creating a cohort of 50 CRS apprentices within 12 months.

We are well on track to hitting our 50 target and a number of law firms have already signed up. We will be celebrating those pioneering businesses who have taken on a CRS apprentice later this year.

Furthermore, the Sustainable 50 aims to:

  • raise awareness – create supply and demand from young people and employers alike, including existing employees in other occupations who may wish to transfer into a CRS role
  • provide blended learning – utilize online and virtual classroom learning to replicate the university experience for CRS apprentices by creating nationwide cohorts that can learn together
  • widen access – open up the profession to people from working class and under-represented backgrounds
  • support small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) – encourage large employers to transfer part of their unused levy to an SME

Levy transfer

If your law firm pays the Apprenticeship Levy, your firm can transfer some of that to small businesses.

It’s estimated that there’s around £2 billion of unspent levy funds in the UK, which is a huge source of untapped potential to upskill people across the country.

Weil has transferred part of its levy and so far funded 12 apprenticeships in social care and hospitality; sectors which have been severely hampered during the pandemic.

Tobias’ story

Tobias Desouza, our very own CRS apprentice at Weil, shares his journey so far.

“During the pandemic I began to search for charity work in my local area. I focused on sustainability roles but remained open to opportunities within the social sector.

"It became clear that there was this catch-22 that prevented people in my position, without a degree, from qualifying for such jobs – how can I qualify for a position demanding two years’ industry experience when entry-level positions cease to exist?

“Thankfully, I came across the CRS apprenticeship vacancy at Weil. An exciting opportunity to gain a recognised qualification while working in a role that combines corporate responsibility and sustainability.

“The one word that describes my experience in this position to date? Inspiring.

“In the first few weeks I’ve begun to build relationships with the charities and NGOs we work with and learn about the incredible work they do; whether it be in a social or environmental capacity. It’s then my job – or privilege rather – to strengthen our support for them in any way I can.

"Each day is different and always provides a fresh source of motivation to contribute towards our internal ESG framework.”

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS