I want to work with children, do I need more training? And how can I get legal experience?

Earn while you learn

Q. I worked as a child minder, teaching young children, before I got a qualification - a Certificate in Education (Post-Compulsory Education and Training). I now teach adults. I would like to work with small groups of children who have a phobia of school, or other problems. Do I need Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)? I have a degree in IT and could do a postgraduate year, but I'm 40 and don't want to spend much more of my life training.

A. As a learning mentor, you would - without the need to gain QTS - work with small groups of children who have had various educational difficulties. Recruitment for this job is carried out at a local level.

The entry requirements, specifications and salary scales differ from area to area depending on the level of work required. Some areas highlight the need for a broad range of life experiences, while others put more value on formal qualifications. Your experience, qualifications, eagerness to work with children and interest in the role should all stand you in good stead.

Once you are in the job, you join a national training programme. When you've completed this, you will be eligible for the Certificate of Completion of DfES National Learning Mentor Training. You can also go on to take further NVQs at levels 3 and 4, as well as study towards a Foundation Degree, and/or take up one of a number of local authority short skills courses.

So there is plenty of opportunity for more training, but you'll be reassured to hear that it can all be undertaken while working. For information, e-mail learning.mentors@wdcouncil.org.uk, or go to the learning mentor national website at www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/learningmentors.

Council counsel

Q. I have just graduated with a degree in law. My aim is to become a solicitor. The problem is I have not worked in the legal field at all and have no experience. I want to work for a council while I continue with my masters. Will the Citizens' Advice Bureau give me the experience I need?

A. Work experience is essential for entry into a career in law: any firm or organisation will expect it. You can send off a CV and speculative letter to your local Citizens' Advice Bureau ( www.nacab.org.uk), or to your local high street firms ( www.solicitors-online.com) or community law centre ( www.lawcentres.org.uk), asking for a couple of days' voluntary work or work-shadowing. You could also contact your local magistrates' court directly for work-shadowing. Follow up any initial enquiries with a phone call if you don't receive a response within about 10 days.

Work experience will help concentrate your mind about where you would like to work as a solicitor. If it is in local government, be aware that vacancies are limited. Contact the head of legal services directly, either at the local authority nearest you, or those within travelling distance. Some authorities offer four to 12-week summer placements with pay, others will arrange unpaid work experience. To find out more about solicitors in local government, log onto www.slgov.org.uk.

If you change tack, legal aid or high street firms will value experience in counselling for a charity or voluntary work helping people, where you may have come into contact with potential clients. Commercial firms like to see work experience in a bank, in insurance, in an accountant's office or in property or sales.

Advisers: Jennifer Connell, careers adviser, University of Liverpool; Jane Haywood, chief executive, Children's Workforce Development Council.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk