From an early age, I never felt the need or had the desire to go to university. Years of student debt didn’t appeal to me and there was no guarantee that I would get a job afterwards.
However, I knew that I wanted to go into the accountancy profession and felt ready for the world of work. So, why spend three years at university writing essays about accountancy when I could spend that time actually doing the job?
My final decision to pursue an apprenticeship rather than university wasn’t easy. I’m strong academically and performed well in my exams, gaining 2 A*s and an “A” at A-Level, and so found that people automatically asked me “which university are you going to?”.
Changing attitudes towards apprenticeships
Although people’s attitudes towards apprenticeships are slowly beginning to change, there is still a general perception that those who are strong academically go to university and those who are weaker academically take an apprenticeship.
Additionally, all my friends chose the university route which made me feel as though I might be missing out. At the time, I did have doubts about whether I was making the right decision for my future but I stuck by my decision and I’m so glad that I did.
Investing time into studies
In August 2018, I joined Grant Thornton on their school leaver programme and have been given responsibility from day one. I’ve never been treated any differently to other members of the team and have had the opportunity to meet a range of people across the firm, including corresponding with members of the Senior Leadership Team, which demonstrates the inclusive and open culture of the firm.
I knew very little about audit when I joined but through my Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) studies, the support I’ve received, and the time that colleagues have invested in me, I’ve learnt so much in a relatively short space of time and can now perform audit procedures confidently and have professional discussions with clients.
Getting recognised for success
I was quick to learn that I would get as much out of Grant Thornton as I put in and this has led to numerous opportunities including attending awards dinners to recognise my work promoting social mobility, being involved in the School Enterprise Programme encouraging more students into business, and assisting with the organisation of ‘Talent’ introducing new trainees to the firm.
I genuinely love what I do, and this has most recently been recognised by winning PQ Magazine’s PQ of the year award earlier this year.
Career progression and becoming chartered
I plan to continue my career progression at Grant Thornton, through completion of my chartered accountancy qualification and beginning to In-Charge audits. Grant Thornton is a global organisation with operations in over 135 countries and so I’m also keen to explore the secondment opportunities available abroad once I’m qualified, particularly in Australia, as the experience would be one that I’m sure I would never forget.
I feel so lucky to be on Grant Thornton’s school leaver programme and would recommend it – and apprenticeships more generally – to anyone.
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Bethany Duffy is an AAT apprentice .