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How apprenticeships are benefitting Scottish employers and trainees

Scottish Apprenticeship Week gets underway this week with the theme of “businesses backing talent”. It’s all about raising awareness of employers providing people with opportunities to advance their careers in areas like bookkeeping and accountancy.

But apprenticeships are a two-way street, creating value for both trainee and employer.

Modern Apprenticeships are an excellent route for individuals to develop high levels of skills and professional knowledge while increasing their financial independence.

At the same time, they provide apprentices opportunities to make a difference in the workplace and contribute to business performance.

Benefits to employers

Tax Assist and Johnston Carmichael are two Scottish employers that have found excellent results using apprenticeships in conjunction with qualifications from the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).

AAT is an internationally-renowned awarding body specialising in skills-based accountancy and finance qualifications of differing levels. A training provider can combine these in an accounting apprenticeship programme to meet the needs of the business.

“The AAT qualification provides a good grounding in the fundamentals of accounting,” says Lynne Walker – Head of Business Advisory at Johnston Carmichael. “And whilst doing the qualification alongside on-the-job training, you can really see our students developing business skills which are vital in their roles as our advisers of the future.”

Richard Lambert, Director at TaxAssist West Edinburgh, agrees:  We’ve developed a relationship with AAT because the qualifications are practical.


Tax Assist gives its AAT apprentices technical roles immediately, says Lambert. “Typically, an apprentice will start by running our technical admin. This means doing all the liaison with Companies House, HMRC and other bodies, getting answers to client queries and relaying that information to the customer’s contact so they can pass it on to the customer.

“We develop relationships with our apprentices, and we invest in them,” he says. “An example is someone we recruited recently who left a position where they had nothing to do but file papers. Here, they have responsibility, combined with support. The individual is learning about personal tax, has started doing simple sets of accounts and within 15 months is doing real work, which relates to their qualifications.”

Apprenticeships are suitable for people of any age, including existing employees. That said, both Johnston Carmichael and Tax Assist have found it beneficial to create school leaver programmes.

How apprentices benefit

Dimitris Paganopoulos, an Audit Assistant at Johnston Carmichael’s Elgin office, came up through the JC Futures programme, joining the firm after his sixth year of secondary school.

“I really like the experience and knowledge I’m gaining towards my career and AAT qualification through the JC Futures route. I’d definitely recommend an apprenticeship if you’re like me and extremely sociable! It’s a brilliant way to meet a vast network of business connections whilst progressing your career from a young age.

“I have been able to gain knowledge and experience of the accountancy world that can’t be taught from a textbook. I’ve found AAT to have a very effective study structure, which is especially useful when you’re balancing studying alongside working.”

Graduate route

Robert Lamb, Business Advisory Assistant, is another beneficiary of the JC Futures programme. His journey started in 2018 with the AAT foundation bookkeeping certificate with AAT before moving onto the Graduate Apprenticeship route with Robert Gordon University.

“The JC Futures programme was a really attractive option for me as it opened my eyes to the fact that you can still achieve specialist and professional qualifications without having to go into full-time education. The ‘hands-on’ approach is the best way for me to learn, and I’ve been able to gain valuable experience in the accountancy sector while also becoming financially independent at a young age.”

Get started

Accountancy practices have been quick to realise the benefits of apprenticeships, but businesses increasingly recognise how they can help them build out their finance teams.

As an independent body, AAT can help you decide on the right apprenticeship for your business.

Get in touch with AAT’s employer team now and get your free employer guide to learn how an apprenticeship could benefit your business.

David Nunn is Content Manager at AAT.

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