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Social mobility initiative Prime, which launched with 22 firms in September 2011, has found that 20 of the firms involved have exceeded their targets by 10 percentage points.
Under the scheme, firms signed up to providing work placements numbering at least 50 per cent of the number of training contracts offered each year. The majority of firms offered 60 per cent of their total number of training contract places. The remaining two firms did not offer placements that fitted with the January to August evaluation period.
Of the number of students who undertook work experience placements, 82 per cent met Prime’s criteria, which include being state-school educated, receiving free school meals, being the first generation of their family on course to attend university or being a pupil at a school where an above average rate of students are eligible for free school meals.
The majority of students (58 per cent) were from black or ethnic minority backgrounds while 84 per cent were in years 12 or 13 and had achieved at least five A* to C grades. Female students made up 67 per cent of work experience placements and 15 per cent of students had English as a second language.
Prior to undertaking placements, 63 per cent of students were interested in law as a career but 54 per cent had little or zero knowledge of the profession. Nearly half (49 per cent) said that they did not know anyone who worked in the legal profession, while 47 per cent said that they did know somebody, although the extent of these relationships could not be ascertained.
After undertaking placements, 96 per cent of students were happy with their experience and would recommend it. Just over thee-quarters (76 per cent) said that their placement had resulted in them being more likely to want to enter the legal profession.
The initiative is being monitored by the National Foundation for Educational Research. It aims to take a robust and independent standpoint over the first two years of the scheme. The report details the experiences of Prime placements, which took place between January and August. Of the 751 placements offered, 655 students completed a pre-placement survey and 478 filled out a post-placement questionnaire.
Sir Peter Lampl, chair of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “Well-structured work experience is crucial for young people, but too often depends on knowing the right people and having professional connections. Prime is leading the way in ensuring work placements in the legal sector are high quality and fairly recruited.
“It’s making a huge difference to those from low and middle income families, who do not have professional contacts, by giving them crucial experience of work in law firms. The first year report is very encouraging and shows just how valuable the placements have been to hundreds of young people, with many more set to benefit in this coming year.”
Over 80 law firms in the UK have now signed up to Prime’s second year.