It's all about apprenticeships

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Lea Watson is a Regional Account Manager here at the AAT. Lea has been working with employers and training providers so they can understand how AAT fits into the apprenticeship framework. Many employers offer AAT as part of their apprenticeship package.

I started working for AAT  in August 2012 just as the Level 4 Diploma in Business Skills was introduced. This was implemented by the government to meet the new Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) requirements.  This effectively doubled the size of the Level 4 Apprenticeship programme and meant that we had a lot of work to do to align to new Government policy.

AAT is a trailblazer 

Not only have we been very busy since then communicating the changes and supporting both training providers and students, training providers and students have had a lot more work to do in order to meet accountancy apprenticeship standards at Level 4.  While we appreciate it’s been hard work, we do understand why we need to make the apprenticeship offering more rigorous following the Richard Review.

Back in September 2013 we also learnt that the apprenticeship offering in England is due to change again in 2017 in light of the Trailblazer project. (For those that don’t know, the Trailblazers are a significant reform to apprenticeships which involve the input and investment from employers to develop the apprenticeship offering across industries here in England).

AAT is a partner in the Trailblazer group that is developing the Accounting Technician standard. As part of the second phase  we will see major changes to the apprenticeship criteria as well as the new apprenticeship pathways for both Accounting Technicians and Chartered Accountants.

Apprenticeships continue to gain recognition 

The tide is certainly turning for apprenticeships.  Opportunities are sprouting up at some of the biggest companies from Rolls-Royce, Jaguar Land Rover, Cross Rail and BT to name a few. Apprentices can study to degree level through an apprenticeship route across a variety of job sectors including accountancy. (I hasten to add that in our sector we’ve always offered a non-graduate route).

AAT is committed to supporting apprenticeships and one of the main ways we do this is by ensuring that employers have all the most up-to-date information to understand the apprenticeship offering.  We also work very closely with training providers nationwide to ensure that we support their business development teams and that they also have all the correct information as we appreciate it can be quite complicated.

The number of apprenticeships is on the ‘up’

Since 2012 we have seen more training providers offering AAT as an apprenticeship option to meet demand. Businesses are more aware of the value of AAT through an apprenticeship programme and they are frequently looking to us as a professional body to provide clear and concise information on how to offer the apprenticeship training.

Funding still confuses 

The general questions and confusion from both employers and training providers does seem to be around funding. This may not be a surprise for readers of this blog. Funding does change and we appreciate that it’s hard to keep abreast of these frequent changes. In England, full funding is only available for 16 – 18 year old and the AGE grant of £1,500 has been made available, however for many small businesses there still are many barriers for taking on apprentices such as cost and resource to train apprentices to suit specific business needs.

In Wales there has been funding for all age groups for quite some time which has meant even apprentices over 25 have had opportunities to train. Wales has not been affected by changes made to the Level 4 apprenticeship programme like here in England and there are a good number of employer initiatives that employers can access financial support through schemes such as the Young Recruits Programme. As expected the funding also differs in Scotland, which has Employer Recruitment Incentive programme where  £1,500 will be made available to employers who recruit a targeted young person  Scotland has a growth target of 30,000 new apprenticeship starts by 2020 so we will be looking to work with colleges to play a pivotal role in the development of their accountancy modern apprenticeships.

There sometimes can also be a lack of understanding from colleges about how AAT fits into the apprenticeship programme. This is because colleges vary in size and departments spread across Curriculum and Work Based Learning so in some cases there are issues with internal communications.

We will continue to work hard at AAT to deliver the right information to support our students, employers and training providers now and in the future. Apprenticeships will continue to grow as the education landscape evolves and there is lots of evidence revealing the value of apprentices to business including research we conducted earlier in the year. The government believe that apprenticeships will play a big role in economic growth and we’d certainly agree.

Thinking of embarking on an accounting apprenticeship? Read first hand what it’s all about. Also check out the latest infographic with some key findings about better career advice in schools to inform young people about vocational and apprenticeship pathways.

Lea Watson is a Regional Account Manager for AAT.

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