Why KPMG finds apprenticeships good for business

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Leading accountancy firms are investing in school-leavers at a time when more young people are choosing apprenticeships over university.

Here, AAT meets three talented apprentices on KPMG360°’s ground-breaking programme.

Since it launched in 2015, the KPMG360° programme has enhanced the career prospects of many keen apprentices including Gabriele Scavinskyte, Vivian Laditan and Brian Nounev. The three apprentices have been fortunate enough to apply their learning to help KPMG restructure companies across Europe, whilst picking up AAT qualifications and are now hurtling towards chartered status.

The rotational apprenticeship programme has offered great opportunities to develop critical employment skills. Along the way, the apprentices racked up once-in-a-lifetime experiences: such as, speaking at the Labour party conference and changing the tyre of a F1 car during a pit stop.

Before joining KPMG360°, the only place Vivian Laditan had worked was in Waitrose, as a stock assistant.

“Your parents always want you to go to university,” says the 24-year-old Londoner. “But KPMG360° challenges that, giving you the chance to pursue a career you love… I wouldn’t have these opportunities elsewhere.”

The impact of the programme for KPMG

“It’s important we have people in our firm who relate to our clients in different ways. The only way we can do that is having people from a diverse range. It’s good for our business, our clients and KPMG,” says Joan Egenes, Head of Business and Leadership.

Tizzy Blythin, KPMG’s Head of Professional Qualifications and Accreditations, agrees. “Our clients look for solutions to problems,” she says. “And hiring people who think in different ways, have different mindsets and backgrounds means we can offer more rounded solutions, which is very beneficial. The people we recruit represent the breadth of society.”

Four years into KPMG360°, it’s clear it’s delivering on its aims. David Sutton is Gabriele’s Manager in Mergers & Acquisitions. He’s been dazzled at how his young charge has progressed. 

“Seeing how she’s developed has been amazing,” says David. “Thanks to AAT’s assessments, Gabriele’s really developed her confidence. Now, she’s managing projects and coordinating overseas offices in 30 different courses. I joined KPMG as a graduate, but wouldn’t have been able to do that at her age.”

One of the most important roles managers have is supporting apprentices. As Joan says, “It’s tough when you’re in school and have no knowledge of what the working world is like.”

To help smooth the transition into the workplace, Tizzy explains that apprentices receive tuition in “softer skills such as how to present themselves in the workplace and to clients, how to write reports and speak articulately.”

What’s involved in the KPMG360° programme?

The ‘360’ moniker, KPMG360°, course is rotational, with apprentices spending 9-12 months in different parts of the company. This sees them working with a diverse bunch of clients, from start-ups to multinationals, and in sectors spanning aerospace to healthcare.

“At 18, I didn’t know what area of the firm I wanted to work in. But the rotational aspect has allowed me to choose somewhere I felt I could progress. No two days are the same,” Brian Nounev.

The necessary entry requirements are grades BCC (or higher) at A-level, plus five GCSEs at A*-C (UK) or grades BBBB (or higher) in your Highers and five Standard Grades at grades 1-3 (Scotland).

KPMG360° apprentices must complete AAT up to level 4. Studying the UK’s leading accounting qualification is something that apprentices, Vivian, Gabriele and Brian have found invaluable, not least the fact they are able to use the practical skills in their day-job.

Studying AAT lays strong foundations

Gabriele says, “AAT has laid a strong foundation. When I was working in Audit or Real Estate Tax, it meant I already knew what financial statements looked like, or how to do tax recommendations.”

“The skills and knowledge I’ve gained through studying AAT have been incredibly useful and transferable to all my KMPG roles… It also helps that AAT is an internationally-recognised qualification; the company that I worked with in the Netherlands picked up on it,” says Brian.

Outline of the KPMG360° programme:

  • the course is six years long
  • there are three levels: Foundation, Technical and Professional
  • foundation is Year 1 and involves two placements in different business areas. You’ll also complete AAT Level Three
  • technical is Years 2 and 3. The placements are for longer spells, and you’ll complete AAT Level Four
  • professional Level is Years 4-6. You can decide to specialise in Audit, Tax, Consulting or Deal Advisory
  • after six years, you can become a chartered accountant, a KPMG assistant manager or do secondments in overseas countries.

What qualities are the managers looking for in next year’s KPMG360° applicants?

“Individuals who can express themselves well, both numerically and verbally, and are confident in terms of talking,” says Joan. “But we’re also looking for people with curiosity because we don’t know the ‘[kind of work] these apprentices will be doing in five years’ time.”

Has KPMG achieved its aims of nurturing different kinds of leaders/decision-makers?

“Yes,” says David. “People who have gone down the KPMG360° route really do have something different to bring. They’ve had so much more professional experience than they would have done otherwise. They’re also more motivated, because they left school and decided what they wanted their career to look like.

“Having a job where you attain a professional qualification like the AAT, which is paid for you is very compelling versus the university route: leaving school not sure of what you want to do, then perhaps leaving university still unsure of what to do and having incurred debt, then having possibly to study again.

Apprenticeships will only get more compelling as people realise the benefit.” says Joan

Find out more from the apprentices themselves: How being a KPMG apprentice has fast-tracked my management career

Christian Koch is an award-winning journalist/editor who has written for the Evening Standard, Sunday Times, Guardian, Telegraph, The Independent, Q, The Face and Metro. He's also written about business for Accounting Technician, 20 and Director, where he is contributing editor.

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