If you are looking for a career that offers great development opportunities, flexible working and enables you to build your professional skills, you could consider an accountancy role within Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S).
DE&S is a government organisation, part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Based in Bristol, it procures the equipment and services for the UK armed forces and is staffed by a mix of civil servants, military personnel and contractors. It is a highly specialised part of MOD involved in the procurement of clothes to carriers, food to fighter jets.
The role of DE&S is to ensure that its UK military customers – the Royal Navy, the British Army, Royal Air Force and Strategic Command – have the equipment and support they need to carry out their duties effectively. It employs over 11,500 staff across more than 150 locations around the world. Over the next ten years it will operate with a budget of £178 billion and is made up of 9 Functions, of which the Finance & Accounting (F&A) team is one.
What does the DE&S Finance & Accounting Function do?
The role of the F & A Function is to record, communicate and drive financial performance. This involves ensuring the delivery of capability and capacity to the armed forces and securing the best value for the taxpayer.
The role of accountants within the Function is to:
- Protect value – Ensure a robust control environment and accounting for all financial transactions accurately and efficiently
- Add value – Deliver accurate, insightful, timely and meaningful financial information to our stakeholders
- Drive value – Be an active and influential partner for the business, supporting effective decision-making through expertise and judgment
What roles are available?
DE&S offers a range of roles across the key disciplines of management, financial accounting, management accounting, finance advisory and support. Typical responsibilities include:
- Support planning and forecasting
- Provide financial advice to delivery teams
- Manage general ledgers
- Prepare routine financial reports
- Maintain financial records
What is DE&S looking for in its staff?
Pam Hawkins MAAT,Scheme Lead of F&A, Corporate Services Group & New Schemes Apprentices in the DE&S HR Entry Talent COE, says the skills that DE&S is looking for in new recruits include an interest in solving complex problems and being able to deliver clear and effective solutions.
“We are looking for people who can understand the bigger picture whilst dealing with the essential detail, have high standards of written and verbal communication and are keen on embracing change,” she says.
Recruits also need to be willing to share information, knowledge and skills, have a strong focus on internal and external customers and have a commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.
The role would suit people who are keen to seek out new opportunities for learning, personal and career development, are prepared to commit to a three-year training programme and are pro-active and willing to take responsibility for their own development and career progression.
How do I join?
The F&A Function of DE&S takes 25 people each year on its Apprenticeship Scheme, and they come from all sorts of backgrounds. F&A are committed to diversity & inclusion and are immensely proud of the ethnically and gender diverse background of apprentices. In fact, minority groups have the highest representation within this Function than anywhere else in DE&S
It is open to everyone from age 16 upwards and appeals to mature career changers as well as school leavers and people who have done A levels but decided not to go to university preferring to do an apprenticeship instead.
The entry requirement for the Apprenticeship is five GCSEs grades four to nine (or grade C and above under the old system), with Maths grade B (current level six and above) and English grade C (the new level four or five). The Apprenticeship is for three years and trainees take two AAT qualifications – Level 3 and Level 4 – during that time. Starting pay last year was £17,500 per annum.
What would a role involve?
The roles on offer are different from other types of accountancy.
“This is because government finance is non-profit making,” says Pam Hawkins. “We do not have to make a profit, but we are accountable and have to spend the money wisely. Value for money and good decision making is very important.”
Apprentices benefit from a mentoring scheme and are paired with a buddy from previous Apprenticeship Schemes in order to help them settle in.
The Apprenticeship Scheme has a very good retention rate because of the tremendous job opportunities. There are a number of different career directions. The F&A Function provides high-quality financial support to DE&S and the Submarine Delivery Agency (SDA), which procures and project manages the construction of future Royal Navy submarines, as well as supporting the UK’s Continuous at Sea Deterrent. There are also opportunities to specialise in areas such as tax, audit, and inventory.
What does a career at DE&S offer?
DE&S is a first-class and inspiring organisation, offering a unique employee experience supporting the UK’s armed forces and delivering some of the world’s most complex projects. It offers a comprehensive benefits package, the flexibility to maintain a great work-life balance, and the opportunity to achieve your full potential.
Recruitment is managed via the DE&S HR Entry Talent Centre of Expertise (ETCOE) team.
What other benefits are available?
“We feel that DE&S can still offer a first-class Finance Apprenticeship scheme despite the difficult times we are going through,” says Pam Hawkins. “Our training providers have adapted their training methods to enable training and exams to continue, and we have had some very positive results. We are all mindful of their health and wellbeing, and both their placement and scheme team offer support at all times.”
The benefits package is very generous and after six months of working you can take advantage of the flexible working options, to work from home or adjust your hours. This can be very helpful for parents, or people who have responsibilities, for example caring for elderly relatives.
How do I apply?
“We take on 25 apprentices a year and the onboarding starts in November. The next advertisement that we will be putting out is in February 2021, and we try to align this with the National Apprenticeship Week. It will be advertised on the Civil Service Jobs website and we also liaise with schools, universities and colleges,” she says.
What will my first year of Apprenticeship look like?
One of the most interesting aspects of the work is that Apprentices will be moved around, so they can experience different parts of the business both in DE&S and SDA. The first placement is for one year and it gives trainees the opportunity to settle in. After that, for the next two years, they will experience two or three different placements.
“We encourage them to network with each other and study together, and we also hold regular cohort meetings,” says Pam Hawkins. “There are various volunteering opportunities which enables them to mix with other functions, not just finance as it is for all apprentices.”
What are the advantages of a career with DE&S?
“Compared with other apprenticeship schemes, we feel that ours is a high-quality apprenticeship which provides qualified, experienced and capable Finance professionals to the DE&S organisation. Our retention rate is high and apprentices have the opportunity to go on to study higher qualifications on completion of the scheme such as CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) or other available development opportunities,” she says.
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Marianne Curphey is an award-winning financial writer and columnist, and author of the book How Money Works. She worked as City Editor at The Guardian, deputy editor of Guardian online, and has worked for The Times, Telegraph and BBC.