How my apprenticeship shaped my career in accountancy

In the first of a three-part series here we talk to two apprentices about how their apprenticeship journey has shaped their various careers in accountancy, what they’ve learned, and the tips they’d give for success.

How have the skills and behaviours (non-technical) elements of the apprenticeship helped you develop your career in accountancy?

Alice Humpston, Assistant Accountant in the audit and accounts department at BHP says completing the AAT apprenticeship with BHP, helped to develop her career by improving her time-management skills as a whole. “The skills I learnt on the apprenticeship programme have helped to increase my organisation at work – so I can manage my tasks and prioritise the most important ones,” says Alice.

For Nagina Mushtaq, Banking Audit Associate at KPMG, the skills developed in the non-technical elements of the apprenticeship proved to be constructive in both a personal and professional sense. “The process you undergo to demonstrate the skills and behaviour is deeply reflective and highly constructive, from celebrating success to setting goals”.

Any tips for balancing workloads and studying for a professional qualification?

“Try to keep on top of your study and don’t all your revision build up, try and tackle it in chunks – such as a chapter or so at a time. This can even be done by doing a couple of questions on your lunch break at work then it is always fresh in your mind” says Alice.

“I have found short evening sessions of questions practice/study post work to ensure consistency and settle into a routine. Diary management is crucial to effectively manage workloads and making your team aware of upcoming exams will ensure that you leave on time to study” says Nagina.

What value do you feel the AAT qualification brings to the Apprenticeship programme? 

“The AAT qualification that I have obtained has put me in good stead for the future, as this is a highly prestigious qualification that not many people get the opportunity to complete with such support and care from their employer,” says Alice.

“The AAT content introduced me to the building blocks of financial statements and taxes and allowed me to translate this into my day-to-day role,” says Nagina.

What advice would you give to Apprentices to help them develop a first-class portfolio?

“Try and get somebody at work to read through your EPA before submitting it to your talent coach for review. My manager at work read through my EPA and suggested areas which he thought I did well at work which I hadn’t already thought” of says Alice Humpston, Assistant Accountant at BHP. 

“Be open to any opportunities that come your way and more importantly express your interest, seize the initiative, and get involved if you are passionate about a cause or project. Equally, if you find yourself working on something a little less exciting you are still adding value and there is always something to learn” says Nagina Mushtaq, Banking Audit Associate at KPMG

Which resources in MyAAT did you use to help you prepare for EPA?

“I thought it was useful to always keep the AAT mark scheme on the EPA specification open when working on my portfolio then I could tick off when I had covered something and it makes it useful to see what areas need more detail adding to them,” says Alice.

“In conjunction with the excellent guidance from BPP, I found the real-life case studies on the MyAAT very insightful, and the green light tests a good dry run to check my understanding of the technical content,” says Nagina.

What did you find most difficult about developing your portfolio and how did you overcome this?

“I found it most difficult to complete the organisational chart for my firm, as there are several different departments, service lines, and branches of BHP which could be considered. After discussing this with my Skills/Talent Coach, we agreed that it would be better for me to just focus on the department which was relevant to my job and my apprenticeship” says Alice.

“The character limit was the only real difficulty in developing my final portfolio- I am a big fan of words and detail, the challenge lay in striking the balance. Multiple iterations and stringent review of what I was writing was helpful in navigating this” says Nagina. 

What was the best piece of advice you received from your Skills Coach or Line Manager when you were approaching End Point Assessment?

“My best piece of advice received from my Skills Coach was to add a witness testimony to my portfolio for my EPA, in order to strengthen my case and give us more to talk about in the EPA discussion,” says Alice.

“Feeling very satisfied after submitting a reflective statement in the build-up to the EPA, a skills coach very thoughtfully crossed out a number of sentences with a ‘you don’t need this’. In hindsight this drove me to focus on the substance of the reflective EPA element” says Nagina.

What are your top tips for Apprentices approaching their end point assessment looking at both the reflective and synoptic element of EPA?

“For the reflective discussion, I made sure that I did some additional research of BHP and any new projects/developments – so that I was up to speed with all of the latest events in the firm which would strengthen any points I made surrounding the firm,” says Alice Humpston,  Assistant Accountant at BHP.

“For the synoptic- question practice is paramount and the most influential factor in exam performance, so practice a lot of questions, mock exams and make a note of questions you struggled with to reattempt closer to exam time” says Nagina Mushtaq, Banking Audit Associate at KPMG. 

Any words of encouragement for Apprentices that are nervous about End Point Assessment?

“Remember that you can’t take a copy of your portfolio into your final discussion with the AAT examiner, so try and have a read through before you go in. However, it felt more like an ‘informal chat’ around my work-life as a whole. This helped put me at ease and the questions asked were both relevant to my work and to study, so don’t feel that you have to memorise your portfolio” says Alice.

“Just make sure you prepare well and give it your best shot,” said Nagina.

Further reading:

Hannah Dolan is AAT Comment’s Content Editor.

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