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Learning the ropes: My apprenticeship with the RNLI

My name is Matt, I’m 20 years old and I’m currently doing a legal degree apprenticeship at the RNLI.

RNLI Legal Apprentice Matt

Photo: RNLI

I joined the RNLI in 2016, just after completing my A Levels. I began with a paralegal apprenticeship, which I completed in the summer of 2018, before moving onto my legal degree apprenticeship. It’s a 6-year course, so I’ll qualify as a solicitor in 2024.

Hands-on experience

I chose an apprenticeship instead of going to university full-time so I could study for a degree while gaining hands-on experience. This means that I’m able to apply what I have learned from my degree into the workplace, and vice versa. 

An apprenticeship also means I can earn a salary while studying for my degree, and that I’m not subject to tuition fees and other debts normally associated with going to university. Once I’d decided I wanted to be a solicitor, I felt an apprenticeship was the ideal pathway to start my career – especially as you learn from experts in the team you work with. 

The fact that this is a large charity which exists to saves lives at sea was also very appealing. While I was growing up, I learned about the RNLI through family friends who had worked here. It was also a cause close to my Grandpa’s heart. Having been in the Navy, he was aware of the dangers of the sea and respected the volunteers’ commitment to helping people in danger. 

No 2 days are ever the same

Working at the RNLI has been a brilliant opportunity. My apprenticeships have been a great eye-opener into the charity sector and working life. Here at the RNLI, no 2 days are ever the same. There is such a wide variety of work that goes on around the organisation, which my team helps with. 

As an apprentice, you get to experience different parts of the RNLI. I have been lucky enough to go in the Sea Survival Pool, and, in a controlled environment, felt first-hand the dangers our waters hold. I have also been able to travel around the UK and witness the charity’s impact and the sense of community it creates.

In the RNLI Legal Team, people have their own specialisms in different areas of law. In my first 2 years here, I mostly worked in the General Counsel area. This involves lots of research, writing advice, and reviewing and drafting legal documentation (like contracts). I now work in the Property and the Legacy Administration teams, where I’m learning lots about Wills, probate and property law. It’s not just about technical skills either, I’m also developing transferable skills, like communicating effectively, scheduling my time, and dealing with a large, complex caseload. 

Lynne Mason, RNLI Apprenticeship and Early Careers Manager, says: ‘Apprenticeships are really important for the RNLI, and have proven their value to us for nearly three decades. Our apprentices bring with them new ideas and fresh perspectives.

‘Our apprenticeships offer opportunities to those starting their careers, and those looking for a career change, as well as providing people with the opportunities and skills they need to help us continue saving lives at sea.’

I would definitely recommend doing an apprenticeship, especially with the RNLI. I’m really enjoying my time here – there’s so much variety and it’s good to know that what I’m doing helps to save lives at sea.