By Becky Lever Run your business Baker Tilly: the sky’s the limit when you take on apprentices 6 Mar 2014 Large accountancy firms often take on graduate trainees, with school leavers left out in the cold. Baker Tilly is different. To mark National Apprenticeship Week Becky Lever, the firm’s Trainee Resourcing and Talent Advisor, argues that the sky is the limit for the school leavers it takes on Over the last few years we have seen an increased number of school leaver vacancies we offer across our service lines, including Accounting and Business Advisory, Audit, Tax, Outsourcing, Corporate Finance and Restructuring and Recovery. Why school leavers are a vital part of our apprentice recruitment process We see school leaver recruitment as a vital part of our overall student activity. As a recruitment team we have flexibility when planning for future student roles, as there is no business quota set on the number of graduates and school leavers we take on each year. Instead, our process is focused on the quality of the candidates, not the route they have come from. We recognise that going to university is important for some students, teaching many life skills and offering a good foundation for working life. But it isn’t the only option, and entering the workplace after A-Levels is now a viable alternative. School leaver or graduate: we look for the same attributes Whether we are recruiting for a graduate or school leaver, we look for the same attributes, because this feeds into the company’s culture. Candidates that stand out to us are those who show they have researched the company and qualification; have a passion for a career in accountancy; who demonstrate fantastic team working, and communication skills. In short, they are confident, self-aware and show they can use their initiative. To attract high calibre candidates we focus on a number of approaches, with online one of the most prevalent. We advertise online and promote our opportunities via Twitter. But we also see face-to-face contact as important too. We work hard to build relationships with local schools and colleges, so that we have the opportunity to talk to students about the world of accountancy and what it is like to work in a specific team. We also attend career fairs, offer CV writing sessions and run business games depending on the requirements of the college. Recruiting school leavers has been a big success Recruiting school leavers directly from college has worked really well, and I encourage any business or enterprise to consider following our lead. Their work ethic is fantastic and it allows you as a firm to work well with students who buy in to your culture and ways of working. If students can see you are investing in them and providing them opportunities to develop and grow, there isn’t really a need for them to look elsewhere. Many successful candidates tell us that it is the combination of studying and working at the same time that they really enjoy – and all with no debt worries. Working and studying at the same time is different from college, but we have a fantastic suite of internal training courses, as well as mentors, to support the students every step of the way through to AAT Accounting Qualification and beyond. For our school leaver apprentices, the sky really is the limit. Becky Lever is Baker Tilly's Trainee Resourcing and Talent Advisor.