5 ways an accounting apprentice can boost your business

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Research by AAT has found that 36% of people responsible for company finances lack a relevant qualification, resulting in potential losses of £2.9 billion for SMEs in the UK.

That’s an average loss of £1,227 for each SME (of which there are around five million in the UK, or over 99% of all UK businesses).

Here are five ways an accounting apprentice can benefit your business.

1. Affordable investment

Hiring an apprentice is a no-brainer as far as cost is concerned. “Companies can get support with recruitment and funded training, as well as a £1500 grant once the apprenticeship is underway,” says Sophie Hardwick, project director at Apprenticemakers, which promotes the take up of apprenticeships in SMEs. “The apprentice minimum wage for the first year is £2.73, although many do pay more to attract the best candidate, but it’s still a great way to gain more resource at an affordable rate.”

2. Find more time for your business

You probably didn’t start a company to spend all day with your eyes glued to spreadsheets. Free yourself up to concentrate on your business service and development.

“An apprentice could help an owner focus on running the business by taking on the day-to-day finance functions that can be hugely time consuming,” says Sophie. “And while some owners worry about the management time an apprentice will take up, through our contact with businesses all over the country, we’ve found that they view the additional time as really worth it.”

Indeed, before taking on his first apprentice, Mike Maynard, MD for Napier Partnership Ltd, had some reservations: “When we first looked at taking on apprentices we were concerned that there was going to be a lot of paperwork for very little benefit, but it really has been the opposite. Apprentices are now a key part of our recruitment strategy, and we have been consistently impressed with the quality of the candidates.”

 3. The feel-good factor

An apprentice is an investment, not only in your company, but also in the community and in sustainable business practices. More and more young people are being drawn to apprenticeships, which they see as a valid alternative to university. “I think that just about all of the apprentices I have dealt with, and I know I felt the same when I was one, feel that they would much rather be ‘earning while learning’ and because it’s a route they decided upon themselves, they seem to really commit to doing the best they can,” says Jill Campbell, former apprentice and now partner at JWP Creers accountants. “It’s great to see and fantastic to know that you’re helping someone carve out their career.”

Furthermore, there’s a strong business reason to recruit apprentices too, says Sophie: “It’s been shown that clients prefer to do business with a company that recruits apprentices. In fact, according to a survey for Apprenticeship Week, 81% of customers prefer to do business with a firm that employs apprentices.”

4. Future CFO?

An apprentice’s ground up education in a growing firm will become priceless in a job market in which it’s not always easy to find staff who are the right fit. While a ‘job for life’ might be a thing of the past and work culture is now more fluid, an apprentice that grows within a business will become a driver of growth and change, increasingly more able to provide unique financial insight and inform wider strategy. It can also be cost-effective to train in-house early on, so you’re better prepared for the future and not reliant on a fickle and expensive job market. MD Michael Tate at Blue Moon has found investing in staff from the beginning beneficial to his business. “My feeling is that whatever their background, young people new to the world of work are always going to have to get up to speed. If you go through that with an employee you want to make sure they’re with you long-term to make those early stages worth the effort.”

5. Develop skills and loyalty

A trainee accountant can be a seed for the in-house finance function you may need as your business gets bigger. “By developing in-house talent to take on your accountancy needs you’re enabling your employee to develop the skills at the rate your business grows,” says Sophie. “Also, research shows that apprentices tend to be more loyal than other members of staff with 56% of those surveyed saying apprentices stay in the business longer than other recruits.” Vicky Peat, head of business support at CUB UK Ltd says, “I would definitely champion apprenticeships. They’re a great way of recruiting fresh young talent. You get a diverse, dynamic look at things. We’ve found that people with no role-specific skills or work experience can come in with fresh eyes and inspire real innovation.”

Jill is a firm advocate of the value apprentices offer SMEs: “Apprentices are eager, keen and most of all they want it. I’d whole-heartedly recommend any business to give it a whirl and I’m sure they’d all be pleasantly surprised.”

Apprenticeship facts

  • Apprenticeship starts are up by 57.5% since 2009/10
  • Advanced Level starts are up by 65.1% over the same period (22,000)
  • 96% of businesses report a benefit to their business
  • 32% of all former apprentices receive a promotion within 12 months
  • 70% of employers reported apprenticeships improved the quality of their product or service

Source: Gov.uk

Photo: Abdirahman Mohamed is a member of the KPMG 360 apprenticeship scheme where he moves between different departments while studying for an AAT qualification. 

AAT Comment editor is AAT Comment’s news writer.

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