Trainee solicitor joins fight for social justice – thanks to funding from Mayor Steve Rotheram’s apprenticeship campaign

  • Mayor urges big firms to gift unspent Apprenticeship Levy to fund training

  • TV channel QVC’s levy helps pay for apprentice at Equality & Employment Law Centre

  • Combined Authority has transferred £3.2m of unspent levy to create 695 apprenticeships

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A trainee solicitor is helping people to fight for justice thanks to the Liverpool City Region Mayor’s campaign to reallocate unspent Apprenticeship Levy.

Earlier this year, Steve Rotheram launched a drive to encourage big employers to transfer tens of millions of pounds of unspent Apprenticeship Levy funding to help smaller firms fund local training.

To date the Combined Authority has helped to transfer £3.2m of unspent levy funding to create 695 apprenticeships.

Read more: Mayor urges big firms to help fund hundreds of apprenticeships in the Liverpool City Region – WITHOUT spending any extra cash

Not-for-profit Equality & Employment Law Centre, which specialises in employment and discrimination, has received unused apprenticeship money from TV shopping channel QVC, which was reassigned through the Apprenticeship Levy transfer scheme.

Solicitor Aoife McGovern has passed her final law exams after completing the graduate solicitor apprenticeship funded through the levy transfer. Meanwhile, her colleague Maria Davies, 21, is entering the fourth year of a six -year government undergraduate solicitor apprenticeship.

A young woman working at a computer

Aoife McGovern

Aoife McGovern said:

“I moved to Liverpool from London to do my law degree and once I graduated from university I started working as a paralegal for around two years before joining the apprenticeship scheme which I have recently finished and qualified as a solicitor.

“Learning different areas of law whilst also dealing with it in my day-to-day work, I can actually apply what I am learning in university to my work and it is helping me to develop that way.”

Maria Davies said:

“I have always wanted to be a solicitor, however, the idea of incurring that much debt is really off-putting. I volunteered here, aged 18, and Julie, our CEO, offered the apprenticeship route to me and I haven’t looked back.

“Through the solicitor apprenticeship route you do your degree part-time and have one day off the job where you essentially learn the university course then after four years you do the two sets of solicitor qualifying exams. What I am learning here is invaluable – if I had gone to university I wouldn’t have had this much experience and knowledge aged 21. By the time I qualify I will have six years practical legal experience and I am earning a wage whilst I am learning.”

Large employers are required by law to pay 0.5% of their wage bill towards an Apprenticeship Levy – which is collected by the government to fund apprenticeships.

Levy payers can spend their own allocation on in-house apprentices or gift up to 25% of the money to other organisations.

Around £2.2bn of Apprenticeship Levy underspend has been handed back to the Treasury in the six years since its launch. The underspend in the Liverpool City Region’s is estimated to be in the tens of millions.

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:

“Since its launch, the Apprenticeship Levy has failed to address skills and sector shortages, with more than £2bn that could have been spent training young people instead being sent back to the Treasury.

“Locally, through the levy transfer scheme, we’ve been able to save more than £3m from going unspent but we’re only scratching the surface of what we could do. By joining our Apprenticeship Levy pledge, local businesses are not only helping to build a more robust and skilled workforce but also giving the next generation to access quality training programmes and giving them the opportunity to succeed.

“But if the government is serious about increasing apprentice starts, it should repurpose it into an apprenticeship and skills levy, devolve it and give us greater flexibility in how to spend it so that we can help even more young people like Aofie and Maria to fulfil their potential.”

A young woman working at a computer

Maria Davies

Julie Ehlen, CEO at the Equality & Employment Law Centre said:

“Aoife and Maria are outstanding apprentices. They are studying with the University of Law and achieving top results while handling a full caseload of complex equality claims. They are absolutely smashing it. The solicitor apprenticeship is a fantastic scheme that opens up legal careers for law graduates and school leavers who want to qualify as solicitors.

“By doing their apprenticeship in a Law Centre they are supporting vulnerable people to get access to justice. The law should not be a privilege for those who can afford it, but a right for everyone. That is why working at a law centre is so rewarding and interesting.

“Maria’s apprenticeship is funded through the government apprenticeship scheme while Aoife’s apprenticeship is funded through the levy transfer scheme, which means that her apprenticeship is fully funded and there is no cost to us – this is because the employer brokerage team at Liverpool City Region Combined Authority enabled us to receive a levy transfer from QVC, something we didn’t really know about until the employment skills brokers told us about it.”

A spokesperson for QVC said:

“In addition to supporting the development and upskilling of our own team members through the apprenticeship levy, we want to enable others to have similar opportunities through the Levy Pledge. We are proud of Aoife”

Over the past six years more than 10,000 jobs and 7,000 apprenticeships have been created through initiatives such as the Mayor’s Young Person’s Guarantee and his award-winning UCAS-style apprenticeship and careers portal Be More.

If you are interested in finding out more about how you can gift your Apprenticeship Levy funds or are looking to access a Levy transfer then please contact the Employer Brokerage team at

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