By Cassandra MacDonald*

In a recent study looking at skills in the workplace, the National Apprenticeship Service revealed that those who complete Higher Apprenticeships in England make for the most desirable employees, with businesses rating this group as 25% more employable than those who took an alternative route into work.

Working in the world of Apprenticeships, this news did not surprise me, but it may have caught the attention of some employers who have not yet explored the potential of taking on an apprentice into their business, especially in the Financial Services sector. Data also shows that of those employers already taking on an Apprentice, 81 % agree that Apprentices make their workplace more productive, 82 % state that Apprenticeships provide the skilled workers we need for the future and 67% confirm Apprenticeships mean lower recruitment costs*.

Higher level Apprenticeships are now an industry recommended approach not just for a young person looking to get into a career in Accountancy but also for experienced professionals currently working in the sector with strong career aspirations. What this means is that firms are increasingly able to tap into a growing talent pool of young individuals looking for a career in finance, but who want a viable alternative to university. Moreover, through capturing this talent, businesses can train their new recruits how they see fit and are in turn rewarded by increased loyalty from their Apprentice.

Together with the skills developed in the workplace, the qualification undertaken with an Apprenticeship ensures that these individuals are technically competent, enabling them to work more independently and to take on higher level duties once qualified. A Higher Level Apprenticeship will always involve completing a professional and accredited qualification, and day to day this will free up those more senior within the organisation to work on more detailed, strategic projects. Given the technical training they will be exposed to, Apprentices can be involved in many different areas of a busy accounts, audit or tax department.

Through my role and experience at Kaplan, I’ve seen that the perceptions of Higher Level Apprenticeships within the industry are highly positive and many see them as an effective way to train their existing staff or grow their teams through hiring new talent.

Typical work duties that could be delegated to an Apprentice include:

  • Bank reconciliations/supplier statement reconciliations/purchase and sales Ledger reconciliation
  • Basic payroll duties
  • Basic accounts preparation tasks
  • Internal and external audit tasks such as systems and controls testing
  • Preparation and analysis of information for management accounts
  • Basic tax computations and liaising with HMRC

I’m pleased to see the outlook for Apprenticeships within the Accountancy and Tax sectors looking bright due to the focus on developing a more technically competent and specialised approach to training. Higher Level Apprenticeships ensure students are not just able to pass an exam, but they have the right skills necessary to forge a successful career in the sector. Employers investing in Apprentices are now rewarded with a well-rounded individual capable of skills such as delivering a presentation, leading a meeting and managing their own time effectively.

On top of this, there’s now even more support from government to encourage smaller and medium sized businesses with less than 1000 employees to take on an Apprentice. Those who have not taken on an Apprentice aged 16-24 in the last 12 months can make a difference to their bottom line as the government will now provide up to 10 Apprenticeship grants per business worth up to £15,000.

However, many employers still struggle to find the right candidates or know where to start – this is where a training provider comes in and can support the process from start to finish. Kaplan’s 70 years worth of experience in the accountancy and tax sectors has enabled us to become experts in supporting employers in these sectors to access high calibre candidates eager to embark on a successful career in accountancy. Aimed at both large and small and medium sized employers, our free recruitment service aims to help the sector find new talent for businesses by matching the most appropriate accountancy and tax candidates to current vacancies across the country.

*Cassandra MacDonald is Head of Accountancy & Tax Apprenticeships at training provider Kaplan