• The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) has today published a report for legal, finance and accounting, following a major review into current and future skills needs in these sectors.

Apprentice pass rates for the Solicitors Qualifying Examinations (SQE) are on average 26% higher than the overall pass rate, with solicitor apprentices outperforming those taking the more traditional academic route into law.

Those wishing to qualify as a solicitor sit two exams, SQE1 and SQE2. Across both, apprentices’ marks were on average 8% higher than other candidates, with the combination of on-the-job training and studying better preparing the apprentice solicitors.

There are currently more than 1,300 solicitor apprentices in England, whilst some 18,000 university students graduated with degrees in law in 2022.

This exciting data from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) forms part of a major report on training in the legal, finance and accounting sectors, published by IfATE today. The follows a review in which over 90 businesses gave feedback on current and future skills needs across these sectors.

Charlotte Eales, IfATE’s head of business support for this occupational route, said: “I am delighted the results of our legal, finance and accounting route review have been published for these vital sectors. This is a culmination of a huge amount of work, and I would like to thank all those who have taken time to contribute, especially the employers and other stakeholders who design and approve our apprenticeships and technical education programmes.
“It’s fantastic to see how well solicitor apprentices are doing and how much the combination of on-the-job training and studying can help contribute to high achievement. I passionately believe that apprenticeships and technical education offer an excellent alternative route to qualifying and help open entry into these professions. This report points the way forward for meeting a variety of skills needs at a world class level.”

There are currently 40 apprenticeships and 2 T Levels across legal, finance and accounting, covering a range of levels and skills: from a level 2 finance assistant, to a level 7 senior professional economist. The legal services T Level will be taught from September this year.

Of all the apprentices that took part in the review, 100% were content with their choice of apprenticeship and employer.

Other important things to emerge from the report include the need for more engagement with skills training with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and digital literacy.

57% of all apprenticeship starts in the route are with large businesses (250 or more employees), yet The Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) reports that SMEs account for 99.9% of UK businesses and employ 61% of all employees. IfATE has committed to launch regular stakeholder forums to better engage with SMEs.

Of those that gave feedback in the review, 39% stated digital skills are essential for inclusion in occupational standards. This includes data analysis, cyber security, core skills for interacting with digital technologies, and ethical and responsible data management.

IfATE will work to incorporate the most up-to-date knowledge, skills and behaviours, including digital literacy and green skills. They will do this alongside the legal, finance and accounting route panel, a collection of industry experts that approve all apprenticeships and wider technical education for the sector.

Another key focus is equity, diversity and inclusion, following the publication of IfATE’s EDI strategy.

Data from the Department for Education shows an over 10% increase in people from minority ethnic backgrounds taking legal, finance or accounting apprenticeships in 2022 compared to 2017. Ethnic minorities account for 25% of apprenticeship starts on the route.

Stephen Allaker and Weiyen Hung, chair and vice-chair of the legal, finance and accounting route panel, said: “This report is the culmination of a significant amount of insight from key stakeholders. It is a testament to the passion that exists for apprenticeships and technical education. Over 90 businesses engaged with the review, and we would like to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. From new stakeholder forums to revision of our tested apprenticeships, the route panel will continue to represent the employer voice. We will support IfATE to innovate and have an even greater impact through its provision.”