From school-leaver apprentice to partner By AAT CommentApprenticeships 1 Feb 2024 How an AAT apprenticeship fast-tracked Ryan Day’s career to Partner leading the MKS Technology sector group. Ryan Day began his career as an AAT apprentice at Moore Kingston Smith (MKS), making partner in ten years. Here’s how he developed the tools to lead the MKS Technology sector group. About the business MKS is an accountancy firm with six offices in London and the South East, providing professional services, audit and accounting. It has around 750 staff, of which around 180 are trainees and around 30 are on the AAT apprenticeship route. MKS offers a two-year apprentice programme, with trainees starting at AAT Level 4. The AAT training contract was two years, and after Ryan qualified at Level 4 he sat his first ACA exam paper. Fitting study around work The prospect of learning on the job and earning money at the same time was attractive to Ryan Day, Partner, who had initially considered studying law. “MKS offered the opportunity to work hard and study hard, but also have fun and get to know the other trainees as well.” “It was a balance of studying and learning on the job as college was booked for two-week blocks around client assignments,” he says. “Juggling both was a learning curve but getting the practical work experience whilst studying towards the qualification was attractive.” How MKS encourages progression “If you knew me 12 or 15 years ago, you would have said I was shy and very quiet – not how people would describe me now,” he says. “I became a partner at age 30. It is important to try to have the confidence and the courage to put yourself forward and volunteer for opportunities within the organisation.” “MKS is good at continuity, so if you did a job in your first year, you’d often go back and do it your second year and third year, each time taking on a more senior role,” he explains. “One of my first senior jobs was with a law firm that was based in Covent Garden which had around 16 partners or so in size. I took that job on pretty much as soon as I qualified, and then ultimately kept that client and held the relationship, despite there being two or three partner changes.” The apprenticeship let Ryan lead assignments at age 20, and supervise the work of trainees who had joined the firm at graduate level. As he progressed in MKS he gained more responsibility in running the internal teams, supervising the booking of staff, appraisals, looking after his own team of trainees and reporting directly to the partners. MKS now has a pipeline of AAT and graduate trainees who follow a broadly similar training plan. “Looking back, I was quite shy but having to deal with challenging clients toughened me up. I always remember a senior manager, who is still at MKS, briefing me on the job and telling me to take no nonsense from a more junior trainee and backing me to do well.” Developing loyal, skilled workers “I do really feel part of MKS, especially as I have progressed to becoming an Equity Partner within the firm,” he says. “The former Senior Partner Martin Muirhead was someone I worked with closely as a manager and senior manager and he championed my cause,” Ryan explains. “You work directly with a number of partners, and performance at this level is monitored closely so potential partners are identified from a long way out.” During his training, Ryan had worked with a lot of not-for-profit organisations, law firms and real estate companies, and ultimately decided that despite his wealth of experience, he didn’t want to move firms to specialise in a specific sector. “I have taken on the MKS Technology sector group and it has pushed me out of my comfort zone.” He says that now in his role as partner he prioritises delivering good quality work to a deadline, engaging with clients around what keeps them awake at night, and thinking about how the firm can assist outside of the compliance cycle. “I have enjoyed the journey from AAT apprentice to partner, and I can thoroughly recommend it,” he says. “After all, here I am at MKS 16 years later. My advice to would-be trainees is to go for it. Taking that route opens up so many avenues for your future career.” AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.