Rotherham College: how we brought AAT students and local businesses together

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With youth unemployment already high, finding work experience as an AAT student can be difficult. Sam Hannigan, curriculum leader at Rotherham College, profiles her college’s approach to the problem: an innovative accountancy clinic which sees students offer local businesses accounting services for free

We currently have 19 students studying AAT Level 3 at Rotherham College full time studying the fast track programme which means they are sandwiching two years of training into one. They are dedicated, ambitious and hardworking – and they all want to work in the finance and accountancy sector.

With youth unemployment amongst 16-24s year olds hovering around the 920,000 mark, I’m well aware that students need to gain real life experience in the work environment to give them the best chance of securing employment.

How we formed our accountancy clinic

In September 2013, I suggested to my students that we form an accountancy clinic for businesses of all sizes in our community. I thought it would be great to raise our profile offering free bookkeeping and payroll services.

All of my students jumped at the chance to get on board; understanding the value of using their knowledge and classroom learning with real life businesses. We developed a logo and website and we got in touch with our local paper, the Rotherham Advertiser and they covered our story helping us to promote our services to the community.

The clinic has been now been operating since December and since then we’ve worked with a number of local businesses and enterprises. The clinic is open every Tuesday from 12.00 till 17.00 or by appointment on other days.

The clinic sees AAT students offer local businesses accounting services for free to gain work experience

The clinic sees AAT students offer local businesses accounting services for free to gain work experience

How we engage with local businesses

Businesses that come forward don’t have to pay for our services, so they are saving hundreds of pounds and my students benefit from dealing with real finance issues. They gain invaluable work experience that so many employers want to see on CVs.

All businesses can rest assured that all work is accurate and properly checked through by myself – a fully fledged accountant with my own practice. Since the accountancy clinic has been up and running all of my students have gained confidence and had more interaction with employers, interviews for work experience and jobs.

We also are supported and are working alongside Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce.  The chamber is working with budding entrepreneurs that want to get their business ideas off the ground and running.

How our accountancy clinic works

We are helping and supporting them by offering free one day introduction to accountancy and business skill classes.  These one day classes prove a great way for us to talk to entrepreneurs about the importance of finance and many enquire about AAT courses or drop into the accountancy clinic.  The number of people attending these classes is growing: on average we have between 20 and 30 people each time.

We were also recently shortlisted at the PQ Awards for:

  • Accounting College of the Year
  • Accounting team of the year (RCAC)
  • Accounting Lecturer of the Year (public sector).

I’m so glad that I suggested the idea to make the learning environment more interactive for my students. In this day and age it’s really important that students understand how qualifications work in the office environment.

The clinic has provided a bridge for our students to use their learning on real financial issues and allow them to get much more out of their studies.

To find out more about Rotherham College Accountancy Clinic visit the college’s website or call 01709 362111.

Sam Hannigan is a curriculum leader at Rotherham College.

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