Love Our Colleges. I do …
By Tom Morrison, Head of Rollits' Education Team
I love our colleges. I am a Partner at Rollits and my kind are not always known for their public displays of emotion. On this topic, though, we all need to stand up and be counted.
I did not go to college myself - my route to law in the 1990s was quite a traditional one of Comprehensive School, Sixth Form, University, Law School, Training Contract, Solicitor. I worked hard, but I was also lucky. HE tuition fees had not yet come into being and I come from a family which instilled in me a strong sense of purpose and the value of education. FE has played an enormous role in my family though. It was how my Mum and Dad built their life, helping them to emerge from a darker period in what is now a vibrant Glasgow. They inspired me to know that education was going to be my route to forge my own life and perhaps one day support my own family. Fast forward twenty years and here I am, married with two young sons and loving my work supporting hard working teams at the amazing colleges I am privileged to work with every day. I would be fiercely proud if when my sons come of age they choose to pursue their own passions in one of those colleges.
Twenty years ago colleges did not feature in my profession in the way they do today. When I look at the rich source of well trained candidates we have for roles across our firm it is striking how some of our best have come from our local colleges. Legal apprenticeships are still in a relatively early stage of development, but we have made a start and are looking to apply the model more widely. The traditional route still dominates my profession, but the ship is turning. The role of colleges in training up lawyers and the support workforce in law firms is increasing markedly, which in turn is making available talent from a more diverse range of backgrounds. We have a wider pool to choose from and stand a better chance of ensuring that we are representative of our clients in the years to come.
A debate has been raging for some time about how well colleges are funded. The answer is patently not well enough. So many simply cannot be so wrong. Over the past few years too much energy has been sucked out of colleges tackling distressed situations. That is not what I want for our colleges. I want our colleges to be able to focus their energy on positive and engaging projects, building collaborative partnerships with others and spreading the word that getting a better education - technical, vocational or academic - improves life chances. That is harder for colleges to do when they are dealing with so many systemic shocks over such a sustained period, yet they press on and make it work through grit, determination, passion and professionalism.
The adequacy of funding for colleges is an enormous issue with campaigning continuing to try to secure fair settlements for all our education providers. While discussions continue - and maybe we are approaching a time when a wider debate needs to happen - there is much the rest of us can be doing right now to support the work of our amazing colleges. Whether that is volunteering time to mentor students, offering to take part in real life projects or sponsoring awards to help celebrate students' achievements, each of us can do something to help. I have been reluctant to speak about my own firm's contributions for fear that our motives might be misunderstood, preferring instead to keep it between us, the colleges and the students we have the pleasure of getting to know. All I would say to anyone thinking of getting involved is that if you want to play your part your local colleges will be there to help you. The positive energy you will get from working with students who are trying to create better lives for themselves is both joyful and inspiring. We can't all fix the funding, but we can all make sure that we offer support in our own way.
So let's show our colleges some love, lend a hand and celebrate being proud of what colleges and their fantastic students are achieving.
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