Osborne Clarke and Visionpath launch new social mobility programme ‘The Bridge’

Flagship programme provides long term skills and employability support to schools with high levels of disadvantage across Bristol, London and Reading

Osborne Clarke is announcing a new flagship education and employability programme ‘The Bridge,’  in partnership with Visionpath, an organisation which aims to radically improve the career prospects and life chances of young people.

Designed to create ‘The Bridge’ between education and employment for young people from under-represented backgrounds, the new programme will involve long term partnerships with three secondary schools across cities in Osborne Clarke’s UK network: Skinner’s Academy in London, John Madejski Academy in Reading, and Merchant’s Academy in Bristol.

Visionpath’s Founder Patrick Philpott, commented: “With ‘The Bridge’, we have a great opportunity to make a massive impact on the future prospects of young people in our communities. Research has shown just four interactions with an employer during secondary school can drastically improve a young person’s opportunity to succeed. The type of sessions and experiences Osborne Clarke is creating through ‘The Bridge’ will offer exactly the sort of experience and impact that will make a difference for young people.

“We’ve chosen our three schools because they have disproportionate levels of disadvantage relative to the communities they are in, compared with national and local benchmarking data. This approach ensures we target our efforts where we can make the biggest impact with those who need our support most,” said Patrick.  

While Osborne Clarke has previously held reading schemes and actively supported a range of educational organisations, this is the Firm’s first holistic schools partnership programme that aims to facilitate access to the legal profession and law firms.

Comprised of a range of tailored sessions, the programme will equip young people with the skills and knowledge for success, students will receive:

•              Career insight – volunteers share their career journeys (from school to present day) to inspire students for their future

•              Diversity events – such as ‘women in law’ sessions to inspire female students to consider a career in law

•              Sector insight – interactive sessions for students to learn about the variety of opportunity in the legal sector, including fee-earning and non-legal pathways

•              Apprenticeship engagement – workshops and programmes to unlock non-university routes into law

•              Interview, CV and UCAS support – online surgeries with Osborne Clarke’s volunteers providing help and guidance for students to make the right impressions

•              One-to-one mentoring – creating relationships between Osborne Clarke mentors and students in need of more direct support to navigate their future choices

Osborne Clarke recently held a soft launch and Career Inspiration Panel at The John Madejski Academy in Reading. Gary Bale, Assistant Principal at John Madejski Academy, commented, “We are really excited to be part of The Bridge programme and working closely with Osborne Clarke. Through this programme we feel that together we can raise aspirations and give students the guidance and opportunities needed to create successful young people. We have already implemented a number of activities and workshops with great success and feedback. We look forward to strengthen the link and provide many more opportunities for our students.”

Having taken part in the soft launch, Gisela Foyster, a business support professional in Osborne Clarke’s Thames Valley office, joined the Career Inspiration Panel: “The Bridge is a great forum to give young people an opportunity to ask questions about their future careers. Living remotely builds up a certain tension around these experiences, so having a cross-section of people from different walks of life, interests and educational backgrounds works quite well as it gives them a well-rounded picture of what they can expect.”

“My session covered the important soft skills that everyone needs to be able to live life and have a job, such as – communication, listening, problem solving and team building.The engagement from the young people and their teacher, Mr. Hudson, was really good. It’s not always about if you have a degree or a certificate, you can be great at a job and not have any of those things.”

Bola Gibson, Head of Inclusion and Corporate Responsibility at Osborne Clarke, commented: “It’s really important to us that we make an impact in the communities in which we work. The Bridge is a long-term commitment to these schools, their students and our people to help prepare the next generation to thrive.”

Osborne Clarke has a long-standing commitment to advancing social diversity in the legal sector. In 2014, UK Managing Partner Ray Berg was one of the first law firm leaders to engage the Social Mobility Business Partnership (SMBP) charity. The SMBP brings together businesses committed to supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of a career, particularly in the legal and finance fields. The Firm works with SMBP to provide an insight into careers in law, and over the last three years has hosted 30 students from less advantaged backgrounds for work experience programmes. 

Mostly recently, Ray joined the Employers Social Mobility Alliance, which aims to promote collaboration between employers, The State and Third Sector to address the issues faced by those from low-income backgrounds entering the workforce.

‘The Bridge’ is a key external programme for Osborne Clarke’s recently launched Social Diversity employee network, which aims to develop an open and inclusive environment for all employees, irrespective of their social background.

To help level the playing field, Osborne Clarke uses the RARE contextual recruitment tool and offers a variety of solicitor and non-legal apprenticeships – having taken on 22 apprentices since 2015, 18% of whom were Black, Asian and minority ethnic, 68% female and 80% from socioeconomically mixed backgrounds. 

As part of the Firm’s commitment to encouraging and supporting corporate social responsibility, Osborne Clarke recognises the first 50 hours of diversity and inclusion or pro bono work, as well as an additional 28 hours of volunteering time, as billable activities and these hours are counted towards chargeable hours targets each year.