Apprentice makes an impression with Pobl housing association

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Jack Bennett left a career in hospitality to train as an accountant. Working as an apprentice in the not-for-profit sector has offered Jack Bennett huge opportunities and made a visible difference to his employer, Pobl.

In his ten-year career in hospitality, Jack Bennet has learnt a lot about customer service, operational complexity, effective communication and working under pressure. When he chose to make a career change and retrain as an accountant, he found all those skills eminently transferable and useful in his new role.

After studying for his AAT qualifications, Jack now works as Finance Assistant at Pobl Housing Association, a large provider of social housing, care homes and rented housing stock in Wales.

Housing associations are turning to apprenticeships

Since 2018, there has been an increasing drive within Housing Associations to achieve value for money, in order to satisfy the regulator and provide good financial stewardship. Housing associations now have to publish their performance in annual statutory accounts to satisfy the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) Economic Standards.

At Pobl, Jack supports the organisation’s Finance Officer, applying his gained knowledge from the AAT qualifications to provide vital support to the accounts payable department and his line manager.

“The AAT qualifications have been excellent and really helpful in my new role. What I would say to people who want a career change, just go for it. The AAT qualification can get you started on a new and exciting path.”

Jack Bennett, Finance Assistant

Pobl turns to apprenticehip for talent

“The apprentice scheme has allowed us to attract some excellent talent into the organisation and within Finance we have really great career progression opportunities,” says Leanne Penny , director of Finance at Pobl Group. “Jack is currently in the recruitment process for a trainee accountant role to evidence this. Our training programme runs across a number of depts in Pobl. We are constantly looking at additional opportunities or areas to introduce apprentices.”

She says apprenticeships help to attract young people who want to succeed and progress and having a number of apprentices in a single team helps with staff cover. She has found that having apprentices has already added value to the business and that offering apprenticeships can be as valuable long-term as recreating graduates.

Pobl’s social housing mission

Pobl is the result of a merger between two large housing associations- Seren Group and Grŵp Gwalia. It is Wales’ largest housing association and last year announced it had exceeded its target of creating 3,000 new homes in the five years to 2021. The housing trust now aims to create another 10,000 new homes by 2031 and has the objective of becoming a carbon neutral business by 2050.

Headquartered in Newport, Pobl has more than 17,500 homes under management across South Wales and over 2,000 employees administering student living accommodation, social housing and care homes. It also builds new estates and communities from scratch.

The mission to make a difference

“It is such a diverse organisation,” says Jack. “Its purpose is social good. It provides an important function in society and I am proud to be part of it. I feel as though I am doing my good deed for the day, every day.”

Jack is on a two-year apprenticeship contract, which provides study support for one day a week to attend college. Jack is working in the transactions department but is on a sixth-month rotation to experience different aspects of the business.

“It is an amazing opportunity and a fantastic insight,” he says. “I was looking to change my career but the most difficult thing is getting your foot in the door. This apprenticeship programme gives me that opportunity and experience while giving me study leave and being paid on the job.”

Recognition in Finance Wales Awards

Jack has been named runner up in the Accounts Technician of the Year, the category sponsored by AAT, at the Finance Awards Wales 2022. The awards are designed to recognise, attract and invest in the talented finance professionals working in Wales. The awards showcase the best in Finance talent from the experienced finance directors and CFOs who are at the forefront of finance leadership, to the next generation of apprentices and finance managers.

Jack’s manager, Leanne Penny says he has made a great impression.

“Since joining Pobl I can honestly say that he is one of the best apprentices that we have ever had, has shown an incredible attitude to work and career progression and isn’t afraid of taking on any challenges. He is confident, able and we are very lucky to have him in the team!”

Lee Jones, Premier Training’s marketing manager, nominated Jack for the award. He says Jack’s  progress and impact has been truly impressive.

“After gaining his first two AAT qualifications in little more than a year, Jack is already providing valuable support to a Finance Officer within a not-for-profit organisation that positively impacts thousands of people across South Wales.

“Jack’s dedication and progress is a perfect example of how to implement a career change, transforming your own life and impacting many others.”

Funding in Wales for career changers

Wales has also launched a new funding stream called ReACT+, as part of their Young Person Guarantee, it gives 18–24-year-olds who are not in employment or training access to a package of support for training and employers a wage subsidy for recruiting then employing. 

This is ideal for people like Jack who can now have their journey funded and may inspire career changers or those not in employment or training to consider this new scheme funded by Welsh Government. There are increased subsidies for those with disabilities.  

Jack is undertaking an apprenticeship funded by the Welsh Government.

Marianne Curphey is an award-winning financial writer and columnist, and author of the book How Money Works. She worked as City Editor at The Guardian, deputy editor of Guardian online, and has worked for The Times, Telegraph and BBC.

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