British Airways is best known for being Britain’s flagship airline, operating as the largest international passenger airline in the UK. Celebrating its 100 year anniversary in 2019, British Airways now flies over 45 million passengers a year, with an aircraft taking off every 90 seconds somewhere in the world. With over 45,000 employees across the organisation, British Airways supports a full training programme at different levels for the future development of its employees.
British Airways’ Finance Graduate Scheme provides trainees with the opportunity to work cross departmentally as strategic advisors, whilst building a pipeline of commercially astute business leaders in the process. By offering the ACA Level 7 Apprenticeship as part of their graduate scheme, British Airways has committed to developing the technical accounting knowledge and high-level business skills of its finance trainees within the organisation.
Value of training programme
Having qualified in 2018, Charlie Tonge has seen first-hand the significance of the ACA in making a real impact on the business, by allowing trainees to not only apply their accounting knowledge but also challenge the status quo and influence decisions. In particular, the practical understanding of the Financial Accounting and Reporting exam is highly valued, alongside the technical standards.
Other exams which play a key role in the scheme are Financial Management and the Case Study, where trainees apply their skills and practical knowledge to a real life scenario.
Flexible training route
While most trainees join straight from university, Charlie mentions that some choose to gain work experience before deciding they want to go into finance. Graduates have the choice of which accounting qualification to pursue. But Charlie sees the ACA as being a flexible and accessible qualification for trainees, particularly in terms of the tuition options and exam sittings. The wide choice of exam centres and the fact that all exams are computer based are also key benefits for the trainees, to fit around their busy work schedules.
Attracting the right talent
British Airways offers the ACA to ensure it attracts the best calibre of trainees to its graduate programme. Charlie comments on the shift in studying the ACA, moving from traditionally studying with the Big Four or an accounting audit firm to more businesses offering the qualification.
Attracting the right talent has led to a pipeline of future finance leaders, evidenced in the number of the senior leadership team who have completed the ACA qualification through the graduate scheme at British Airways and its sister companies.
All ACA trainees on the graduate scheme at British Airways complete three, one-year rotations around the business, which Charlie identifies as one of the key selling points. Each rotation is within a different department, such as engineering, customer services and operations, so that trainees get exposure to different areas of the business.
Trainees also have the opportunity to see different areas of finance, including management accounting, financial accounting, audit and group reporting, to hone their finance acumen and strengthen their relationship-building abilities.
Support for trainees
In his role as counsellor, Charlie provides the trainees with advice on studying and time management, whilst supporting their day to day training and conducting the six-monthly reviews, which are a core part of the ACA.
British Airways also fully supports its trainees with an internal graduate committee to ensure they get a well-rounded experience. The graduate committee organises the rotations between departments, identifying any gaps and placing trainees where they can build their knowledge and skills and gain exposure to the breadth and depth of challenges across the business. Trainees are also offered a range of additional training from external suppliers to further their skills in other areas.
Charlie comments on the resources and guidance available for trainees from ICAEW to support their studies. "The online resources including past papers, industry updates, Economia magazine and the ethics helpline, are all used by British Airways trainees."
Broad finance qualification
For Charlie, the ACA not only provides trainees with in-depth technical knowledge but also rounded knowledge of how the business works. The application of learning in real-life scenarios across different areas of the business results in trainees developing the ability to think both creatively and strategically and add value to everything they’re involved with. As well as the exams, the ethics component of the ACA is also a core focus for British Airways.
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