After studying for her A-Levels in 2019, Abbie Hartley began an AAT Trainee Accounts Technician qualification with the aim of becoming a Chartered Accountant. She tells us about her experience of becoming an apprentice and the opportunities available to her.
In September 2019, after studying A-Levels in Mathematics, Business, Physical Education, and Extended Project at Hills Road Sixth Form in Cambridge, I began the role of AAT Trainee Accounts Technician in General Practice and Corporate Services at Whiting & Partners, Chartered Accountants & Business Advisors, in Bury St Edmunds.
My role as a Trainee Accountant consists of being responsible for undertaking high quality accounts preparation services for a range of business clients, including sole traders, partnerships and limited companies.
Being on the AAT Training Agreement with Whiting & Partners, I study at First Intuition Accountancy College in Cambridge, part time. I have just sat my final AAT Level 3 exam and just had my End Point Assessment for my Assistant Accountant Apprenticeship, and I am about to move onto studying towards my AAT Level 4 and the Professional Accountant Apprenticeship.
After I finish my AAT qualification I wish to continue studying, with my long term aim to complete either ACA or ACCA and qualify as a Chartered Accountant by the age of 23.
Why did you decide to apply for an apprenticeship?
I’ve always enjoyed Maths since GCSE, and when I started studying Business at A-Level I wanted to find a career that would allow me to demonstrate my skills as well as enjoying what I do.
I felt Accountancy fitted in well with these two subjects. I did some work experience at a couple of different accountancy firms, and decided this was the career I wanted to go into. In fact, I loved one of the work experience placements so much this is where I ended up going to work!
Being able to study for professional qualifications with no student debt did appeal to me, where I would be able to save for a house, with no rent payments, and very limited expenses! The progression pathway in accountancy would allow me to continue to learn throughout my career, both through studying and in office hands on experience.
What was the application process like?
I contacted Whiting & Partners when I was studying for my A-Levels to ask if they offered any work experience to students. From this, I was invited to an interview with one of the Partners and the Practice Manager, where I was offered a work experience placement.
After I completed the work experience I was then invited back in the next half term. When I was looking at applications, I asked if there were any job opportunities at Whiting & Partners to begin after I was to finish college. I was offered a role to start after I received my A-Level results.
At this time, I was yet to take my A-Level exams, so having this conditional offer really drove me to achieve my potential in my exams. I was very lucky to be able to complete work experience at Whiting & Partners, and I am very grateful for the company and their time and resources they have put into me so that I have been able to pursue a career in accountancy.
I did initially complete a whole application process for another firm before receiving a job offer from Whiting & Partners. This was at a large firm, and the process included things like sending a CV and personal statement, an online English test, online mathematics test, online skills tests, writing an executive summary on a business’ financial performance, director interview, and then I received a job offer.
I felt that although this was a long application process, I was able to learn new skills through the experience.
Can you describe your role and what a typical day looks like for you?
As previously mentioned, my role as a Trainee Accountant consists of being responsible for undertaking high quality accounts preparation services for a range of business clients, including sole traders, partnerships and limited companies.
I have loved every minute of working full time at Whiting & Partners, for me going straight into work from A-Levels was the right decision. I learn and work at my best in a professional environment where I am able to gain knowledge from those with experience.
Everyday is different, where at this early point in my career I have not yet specialised. I work in two departments, General Practice and Corporate Services.
I work on VAT returns every quarter, where in between these periods I have accounts work, audit work, bookkeeping jobs – my role is very varied and I’m always learning something new!
Sometimes I’m out of the office, which I have found very interesting to see behind the scenes of how businesses operate financially.
How are you finding balancing work and learning as part of your apprenticeship? Do you receive support from your employer?
The apprenticeship is designed so 20% of working time is ‘off the job’, where I am learning new skills or developing business behaviours.
I am studying for my AAT alongside the accounting apprenticeship, while working full time. Although at times I’ve found this difficult, having a strong mindset has proven key, being driven to succeed.
I tend to take each exam one by one. As soon as I complete each exam I request the next study folder from my training provider before the course begins. This allows me to read through the material to gain a basic understanding before starting lessons.
Being organised has been very important when balancing work and learning as part of my apprenticeship and my employer has been very supportive from the start. On the apprenticeship side of college, I have been supported at work to go to onsite client audits.
This has allowed me to improve my face-to-face communication skills with clients, something that as a junior I am really grateful for getting the opportunity to learn by having exposure to clients at an early point in my career.
I receive a paid study leave day off before each exam, to give me extra support with additional study time to make sure I achieve my potential. Work pay for my college courses, and my expenses to travel to college.
The best support I have received is from the people around me at work, where many have been in the same position as me before, and are always willing to answer questions and support in the lead up to exams.
What are the progression opportunities in your role?
Hopefully, as my career develops in the future I will progress through the job titles – Accounts Technician, Assistant Manager, Manager, Associate, or even Partner!
With completion of some of my accountancy exams, I qualified as an Associate Bookkeeping Member (AATQB). In the next couple of years I aim to qualify to be an AAT Full Member (MAAT), with my long term aim to complete either ACA or ACCA, qualifying as a Chartered Accountant by the age of 23.
What would you say to those considering taking the apprenticeship pathway?
Make the most of every opportunity you have. I have been given some fantastic opportunities to further my career, like visiting my previous school for a careers day to speak to students, writing articles for schools newsletters, and the opportunity to be an Apprentice Ambassador.
Try your best at everything you do, whether this is in a college or work environment. I have studied hard for my accountancy exams, and ask additional questions where I think it could prove to be useful for the future. An example of this is when I receive feedback from managers, I always make sure I take action to benefit myself for the future. You only get out what you put in!