The modern apprentice: hired, not fired

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With the rise in university fees and the decline in graduate jobs, young people are wise to look at alternatives.

A degree is no longer a guaranteed route into the professions. Figures released in January show that one in five recent graduates are still unemployed six months on – and this does not include people who may be employed in entry level jobs.

Conversely, at the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), we have noticed an increase in the number of employers choosing to recruit school leavers instead of graduates.

Examples include Proctor & Gamble (P&G), who have decided to recruit school leavers solely into their European Finance Centre. However, this trend is not just restricted to the large multinationals, but seems to be across the board in companies of all shapes and sizes.

This growth has also been reflected in our student figures. Last year, the number of students under the age of 18 grew by 11%, suggesting both employers and young people are moving towards this approach.

Along with earning a salary, an accountancy apprentice training with AAT can avoid student debt whilst still get a professionally recognised qualification. The apprentice gets to put the skills they’re learning into practice, which means the qualification is put into context.

In the case of accountancy, qualifying with AAT enables you to progress and become a chartered accountant quicker than someone with a degree. It is quite possible that someone going through this route could qualify as a chartered accountant at 21 – the average age of a university graduate.

But, not only are there benefits for the apprentice – there also are benefits for the business too. Research from the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) shows:

  • 80% of employers who employ apprentices agree they make their workplace more productive
  • 88% of employers who employ apprentices believe that Apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce
  • 83% of employers who employ apprentices rely on their Apprenticeships programme to provide the skilled workers they need for the future

AAT has developed an apprenticeship programme for employers who want to complement their finance recruitment with employees undertaking work-based training. As the AAT Accounting Qualification is so practical, it means as the employer, you get to see the benefits of training immediately.

Employing an AAT apprentice can also be cost-effective. Government funding is available depending on the needs of your organisation and your training requirements.

You can access full funding for all 16-18 year olds – so you only need to pay their salary. You may also be eligible for funding for apprentices aged 19 years and over. In addition, the government has committed to recruit 75,000 new apprentices by 2014.

We know a worry for employers is having extra administration. But, you won’t be bombarded with forms and paperwork. Your apprentice’s training provider will do most of the admin for you, including a health and safety check. However, you will need to commit to supporting your apprentice’s time spent out of the office, and provide a mentor for them at work.

An apprenticeship not only offers value for money but helps you grow someone into your organisation’s culture. Above all, you’re giving someone a great opportunity to take their first step in their accountancy career.

Next year’s National Apprenticeship Week runs from 6 -10 February. More information is available on the official website.

Rob Alder is AAT's Head of Business Development.

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