Accounting Apprentices: The myths busted

Looking for the accountant’s apprentice? Graham Hambly shows you where to find the information you need to make it happen.

Mentioning apprenticeships to other accountants can have a Marmite effect! Reports like ‘Runaway training – why the apprenticeship levy is broken and how to fix it’, from education think-tank EDSK, haven’t helped. It said that up to half of all apprenticeship courses in England could be ‘fake’. The worry is that the apprenticeship levy is simply being spent on low-skill jobs or on re-labelled existing schemes rather than real training.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson also recently urged parents to move on from outdated stereotypes of apprenticeships. He was reacting to a Mumsnet survey (a website everyone takes notice of) that discovered too many parents are still unaware of the range of opportunities apprenticeships can offer their children. It’s not about just making the tea, as over 60% of parents believe.

Despite all the negativity swirling around you must ask yourself whether hiring an apprentice will ultimately help your practice get to where it needs to be? In a recent blog, accountant coach and Accounting Practice contributor Rudi Jansen outlined some of the key benefits. Apprentices are cheap but not, as many believe, ‘free’. Jansen explains you can start them on the minimum wage, which means they are a really cost-effective resource for your practice. But he warns you to be careful, as it’s competitive out there.

Apprentices are also mouldable, he claimed. Many will come to you with little or no experience, which means they have no pre-conceived ideas about how things are done. And they bring fresh energy. Apprentices are usually keen to learn, improve and impress.

If this has rekindled your enthusiasm then here is an easy step-by-step guide to all this:

  1. Go to www.findapprenticeshiptraining. apprenticeships.education.gov.uk, which will help you choose the apprenticeship standard in your industry and the suitable level for the apprentice you want to employ.
  2. Find an organisation that offers training for the standard you have chosen (https://tinyurl.com/spb3aq7).
  3. Check funding availability (https://tinyurl.com/uyhflk6).
  4. Advertise your apprenticeship – you can do this through the find an apprenticeship service at https://tinyurl.com/pbh4mbs. Some training providers will do that work for you, too.
  5. Employ your apprentice and create an apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement – go to https://tinyurl.com/wkyl6l9

If hiring an apprentice is something you are seriously thinking about then perhaps before you do simply spend some time creating a starter pack, outlining what the apprentice can expect from day one. It will also help you understand what you need to do, like offering a weekly catch-up with the apprentice and maybe ensuring you get regular updates from the training provider.

• Graham Hambly is the editor of PQ magazine, the UK’s leading magazine for trainee accountants

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