To mark National Apprenticeship Week, we speak to two newly qualified members who followed the Level 4 and Level 7 route to completing the ACA.
“You’re putting what you’re learning into practice day to day”
Aimee Dimmock, Audit and Accounts Senior, Foxley Kingham
I found the ‘learning on the job’ aspect of an apprenticeship really appealing. I originally planned to go to university to study psychology, but a maths teacher gave me a leaflet about accountancy and apprenticeship that sparked my interest. Because I’d never studied accounting at school or sixth form, I wouldn’t have had any idea what the content of a university course would be or how it might be useful in a career, whereas with an apprenticeship you’re actually putting what you’re learning into practice day to day. I think that also makes studying easier; you’re able to apply new skills to actual situations and clients you’re working with, so things make sense and are easier to understand.
I did my Level 4 Apprenticeship at an independent firm in Luton that has had an apprenticeship programme in place for the past 15 years, so there’s a nice network of other people who have been through what I was going through, and who could help with studying and share their knowledge. It’s been great learning from people who are working in different parts of the business. I also feel I learn from younger people below me, because the content is changing all the time – there will always be someone who knows something I don’t know yet, or who has a different perspective on things, though obviously we all do CPD and keep ourselves up to date.
You also get to nurture those who are younger than you, sharing your knowledge and experience. I'd love one day to have my own portfolio of clients and my own team who I could help and progress with. I also want to keep developing my own knowledge – I know I still have so much to learn.
I qualified in December but it hasn’t really sunk in yet. I was lucky that my studies weren’t too badly affected by the pandemic: ICAEW responded to the situation really quickly, taking stuff online, and we also had remote exams. It took me a while to find the right balance between working, studying and having personal, social time. When I first started I was very conscious of putting 100% of my time into study and exams, but I learnt that it was possible to find a balance, and I definitely think that helped me to perform at my best.
Even though my interest in accountancy didn’t really start until I was in the role, I really enjoy it. I feel I am where I should be.
“You’re treated as a grown-up from the word go”
Mariee Payne, Audit Senior, Mazars
I have been interested in counting since childhood – on long drives my sister, my dad and I would keep each other occupied by having times table competitions! I’ve always loved numbers and finance – I loved maths at school, and when it came to doing work experience I was lucky to get a place at a local accountancy firm. I also got a placement within the finance department of my local NHS hospital, which was really interesting – I got to shadow the head of finance and even got to go to board meetings. A lot of what they were talking about felt like a foreign language, but it was really cool to be invited to it.
When I finished my A levels I was thinking about applying to university when I had a chance conversation with someone at my bank who told me about Level 7 apprenticeships, which I’d never heard of. I looked into it and was lucky enough to be accepted on a Level 7 Apprenticeship at Mazars, a local accountancy firm. The entry process was quite rigorous, not just a case of sending in a CV and covering letter – I had to fill in an online form with information about myself and what I would do in different scenarios, then I had a telephone chat, after which I was invited in for a formal interview with the audit partners and finally had a partner interview.
It felt like a very grown-up process, which I really liked. One of the great things about the apprenticeship is that you’re treated as a grown-up from the word go. You’re thrown in at the deep end – within two weeks of starting I was meeting clients, learning about auditing, and also how to deal with problems. It’s an amazing experience and you learn really quickly. I also got to do non-core activities, like working on diversity and wellbeing, and green and sustainability initiatives, which is something I want to pursue later in my career. I wouldn’t have gotten that in an entry-level job.
Everyone has been really supportive – there are others at the company doing apprenticeships and others who have been through the programme already, so they knew what I was going through and helped me with any issues that came up. They also understand how hard the exams are.
Studying and doing exams while working was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, especially during lockdown, when there was no boundary between work and home. Some of us studied together over Zoom when we couldn’t be in the same room, just for a sense of camaraderie. I sat my final exam in November and found out I’d passed just before Christmas.