When Inga Gumuliauskiene found out she was one of 10 individuals accepted for the AAT Bursary scheme – launched last year to coincide with the association’s 40th birthday – she cried with joy.
“Being chosen for the AAT Bursary has given me my confidence back and given me new hope for the future,” she says. “I don’t know how to thank the AAT for this opportunity to have a rewarding career.”
A former manufacturing engineer, Inga arrived in the UK from Lithuania with her son in 2006 after her marriage broke down. Unable to find work in the manufacturing sector, she took a job as a retail clerk – an area she still works in today.
However, in 2019, disaster struck when Inga was involved in a car accident that left her unable to walk. “The accident did not seem that serious initially, but one day soon afterwards I woke up and just couldn’t walk,” Inga says. “It was a huge shock.”
She has since been diagnosed with a Functional Neurological Disorder which means she may need crutches to walk for the rest of her life. “The doctors don’t know whether my condition is permanent or not, but needing crutches is a problem in my work because it involves quite a lot of walking around,” she says. “So once I realised I was going to have to live with walking difficulties, I knew I needed to find a desk job of some kind.”
A passion for numbers
“I had joined an AAT Facebook group a couple of years earlier because I have always liked working with numbers and was interested in potentially doing some AAT qualifications so I could change my career,” she says.
“When I saw a post about the AAT Bursary scheme, it was like a lifeline.
“I researched the scheme and sent in my application, and when I received an email saying I had been accepted a few months later, I cried with joy because having this opportunity to study is like being given a second chance in my life.”
Starting out with AAT
Since being chosen as an AAT Bursary recipient, Inga has started studying for her AAT Foundation Certificate in Accounting (Level 2).
“When it came to choosing how and where to study, I picked an online course run by Kaplan because it’s easier for me to study at home,” she says. “I have passed all the exams so far with scores of more than 90%, which I’m really proud about.”
She is impressed by the level of support she has received, without which she wouldn’t have been able to start her journey as an AAT student.
“Through the scheme, I’ve received funding for one year’s AAT membership, plus all the training and exam fees,” Inga says. “I’ve even had my textbooks provided.”
Starting her own business
Now, she’s focused on building a career in accountancy – and maybe even opening her own practice one day.
“This Bursary is my chance to move forward and learn new skills that will allow me to support my son and I financially in the future,” Inga adds.
“My dream is to become a full AAT member and open my own accountancy practice one day, but the next step is to find some work experience in the financial sector.
“Then I can hopefully go on to study for my Level 3 and Level 4 qualifications.”
About the AAT Bursary
AAT is committed to improving social mobility within accountancy – ensuring dedicated individuals can succeed in the sector regardless of their personal circumstances.
So to celebrate its 40th birthday, the association launched a scheme offering bursaries to 10 financially disadvantaged students keen to study towards an AAT qualification.
The scheme was open to UK residents aged 16 or over, and included a range of AAT accounting, bookkeeping, and business qualifications – from the Access Award in Bookkeeping (Level 1) and the Foundation Diploma in Accounting and Business (Level 2) for 16 to 19-year-olds to the Professional Diploma in Accounting (Level 4).
For those accepted, it covered all the costs involved in taking the relevant qualification, from the training provider’s fees to the textbooks required – up to a maximum of £5,000 per student.
In other words, it offered a potentially life-changing chance for 10 people who would be unable to pay these costs themselves.
As Adam Williamson, Head of Professional Standards at AAT, said at the time: “At a particularly challenging time for the UK, the AAT Bursary provides a fantastic opportunity to change the lives of individuals who need financial support.
“AAT qualifications are globally recognised and give thousands of people the chance to start an exciting career in finance. “We believe this scheme will add to our success stories.”
Thank you to Inga for sharing her courageous and inspirational story with us. AAT is proud to have been changing lives for more than 40 years, and is thrilled to be able to assist AAT Bursary recipients such as Inga to achieve their dreams of working in accountancy.
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Hannah Dolan is AAT Comment’s Content Editor.