Earn and learn with an apprenticeship

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As Scottish Apprenticeship Week kicks off (21-25 May), Iain Abernethy of Johnston Carmichael argues that apprenticeships are not only good for business – they are good for school leavers wanting to climb the career ladder too

Like the rest of the world, all businesses have felt the full force of the recession. During these challenging times, organisations (small, medium and large) need to ensure that they are employing the right people to ensure business survival and growth.

Through strong leadership and direction, our business has remained strong and grown. With 11 offices across Scotland, we are continually looking at our business strategy and implementation in order to ensure we deliver the best we can to our clients.

Over the years our recruitment processes have changed in response to a number of external factors – like the recession – and we’ve implemented what we hope will be a highly successful direct entry route.  We envisage that many of these direct entries will be school leavers.

This year we introduced JC Futures, a five-year accounting training programme for those who prefer to go directly into vocational training. The scheme encourages talented people to train for the AAT Accounting Qualification whilst gaining practical experience.

In my role at Johnston Carmichael as Training and Development Director, I’ve come to realise that university isn’t for everyone. Some want to skip the three or four years of study and move straight into on-the-job learning, earning a salary and making a career for themselves. For those candidates that are committed to making this choice, more often than not, it’s a good option.

It’s clear that talented people benefit from high value apprenticeships in a number of ways. Work experience is the major benefit as it provides a tremendous platform of understanding for one’s career. Then there is the growing familiarity with the world of work where you can learn the DOs and DONTs of everyday business life. And of course I can’t forget the obvious plus – the salary.

But what’s in it for the employers that invest time and resources into offering apprenticeship schemes? By taking good candidates into our firm through a program like JC Futures, we are able to develop their understanding of work and working practices. Essentially, we are able to train direct entry students in our methods of work. We have tremendous long term opportunities and prospects within the firm and our ultimate objective is for staff to progress their careers within the firm.

From what I have seen, candidates tend to be focused and determined about coming into work rather than university. On the other hand, university students generally have more life experience and those that have been able to gain work experience during their summer holidays tend to hit the ground running. Regardless, it can take up to six months for any candidate to settle in. There is no right or wrong option.

From an employer’s perspective, an ideal candidate does not necessarily possess a university degree, but rather an enthusiastic and positive approach to their work and colleagues. They must of course be academically capable, communicate well, have a desire to progress with their career and not afraid to keep learning and asking questions.

When you match a bright and passionate candidate with an employer that is willing to invest time and energy into their development, the result is often win-win.

You can read more accountancy news and opinion on AAT Insight Scotland – our blog dedicated to issues north of the border.

Throughout this week AAT is running a series of webinars on apprenticeships in Scotland to coincide with Scottish Apprenticeship Week.

Iain Abernethy is the Learning and Development Director at Johnston Carmichael.

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