Alex Collins, Senior Business Development Manager at ICAEW, explains what sets the Level 7 Accountancy Professional apprenticeship apart for students, and shares his top tips for success.
In 2021, more than 70% of ACA students who started their training in the UK did so as a Level 7 apprentice. It’s the new normal. The apprenticeship route is employer-designed and employer-led, so students can be confident that, whether they’re completing the ACA with or without an apprenticeship, the knowledge and skills they are learning have been determined by ICAEW in consultation with employers.
The ACA has always emphasised skills and behaviours, but where the apprenticeship goes one step further for students is that it dedicates time to learning those skills and behaviours through structured off-the-job training. The ACA can be studied in a variety of employers in any sector, and apprenticeships level the playing field – providing small and medium-sized employers with an ‘off-the-shelf’ training experience with dedicated time to develop non-technical skills such as data analytics, communication and leadership. And because it’s government-funded, students don’t pay for any aspect of their training, including exam resits.
ICAEW has always had a high benchmark – quality is everything to us in our training. So we haven’t adapted anything in the ACA to fit the apprenticeship. There are some additional apprenticeship-specific requirements, such as the final Project Report, but students really benefit from the extra support they get from their tuition provider. Approximately 90% of our students qualify within four years – on the apprenticeship route, tuition providers are finding pass rates are increasing.
My advice to anyone embarking on the Level 7 Accountancy Professional apprenticeship is to stay really organised, and be honest with yourself about time management. There will be peaks and troughs. There’s greater investment in you through the apprenticeship, through the extra skills and professional behaviours training, but that does increase the requirement to be organised and manage your time effectively. Look for where complementary things are happening – the apprenticeship and the ACA training file both require examples of how you have used skills in the workplace. Then make sure you plan fun things for when you do have some down time. It’s important to let your hair down, do things that you value and see people who provide you with fulfilment, because it’s a long journey, and a significant investment of time and energy. Finally, our profession requires you to be inquisitive, so ask lots of questions. If you’re interested in something, ask about it, and if you’re struggling, ask for support – there’s so much available through us and caba.
Last but not least, a small but important admin point: when you register, make sure you select the Level 7 student classification, and that you enter your unique learner number (ULN) and employer reference number (ERN) in your online training file. You can find this information from your employer or tuition provider and it is a requirement to book your end-point assessments.
Find out more about the requirements for registering here.
What the students say…
James Skilton is an Audit & Accounts Semi-Senior at Wilson Wright in London
“I’m approaching the end of my training contract, with 14 exams completed and only the Case Study and the End-Point Assessment to go. My firm has allowed me the flexibility to take ownership of and customise my apprenticeship journey. This has meant that I have been able to fit my studies around my life, instead of my life around my studies. Whether you’re considering the apprenticeship route or you’ve got one exam left, you’ve got to be all in! The qualification can be academically challenging as well as motivationally testing. To overcome this, learn to love the journey rather than the destination, and shift your focus to building knowledge rather than passing exams.”
Amy Freegard is an EU Financial Accountant at Pure Electric in Bristol
“I’m in my final year of training, working towards the three Advanced Level exams, which I’m due to sit in July. The Level 7 apprenticeship made it possible for the firm I was already working at – and enjoying working at – to support my training, and to give me the time I needed to study. I was doing a lot of work with the finance team, and ultimately became responsible for our profit and loss, balance sheet and cashflow forecasts. Although I understood financial statements, I realised there was a huge amount of knowledge I was lacking – debit, credit and double entry sounded like a foreign language! I’ve always believed that understanding a business’s finances is essential to any organisation, and was keen to develop this knowledge. My advice to other apprentices is to make sure you’re working somewhere that inspires and supports you. Three years is a long time, but it flies by if you’re in the right environment.”
Abdul Kansowa is an Audit Associate at EY in Southampton
“Since studying economics at A level, accountancy always appealed to me – there’s a lot of variety in possible careers, and always something to learn. I’m almost two years into my apprenticeship now, and have passed the first six ACA exams. My employer has been great during the journey, especially with the support for exams. Whether it’s a pat on the back after a pass, or a “You’ll get it next time” after a fail, they always make sure I’m supported and feel comfortable raising any queries or concerns. My top tip for anyone considering an apprenticeship is to get some work experience first as part of your decision-making. If you know what you want to do as a career, I can’t recommend an apprenticeship enough. Make sure you research the employer and training provider to understand not only whether you are right for them, but whether they are right for you.”
Ashwini Poopalasingham is an Audit Junior at a firm in London
“I knew I wanted to do the ACA – it’s such a rewarding and respected qualification – and I found out about the Level 7 apprenticeship route when I was looking at graduate schemes. I have been with my firm for nearly a year now, and have just sat my first two Professional Level exams. It’s been a learning curve, especially the balance between work and study – at university, it was full-time study with a part-time job, but now it’s the other way around, with a full-time job and part-time study. Getting that balance is difficult at first, but once you’ve done two or three exams you start to get the hang of it. And there’s always support on hand from your employer and tuition provider, especially when things don’t go well. My advice is don’t go in with any expectations – just try and be prepared for what’s coming.”
If you are studying the Level 7 Professional Accountancy apprenticeship, find additional support and resources here.