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Case Study


EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services, working with approximately 100,000 clients worldwide, ranging from small, privately owned companies and global household names.

There are 21 offices around the UK. The EY Cambridge office offers business apprentices the chance to become qualified chartered accounts and work in EY’s Assurance service line. Assurance helps protect public confidence in the world’s capital markets, which involves a variety of skills across many areas in both audit and non-audit work.

Why does your organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme and how many apprentices do you have at any one time?

We get a number of benefits from our apprenticeship scheme. Firstly, we find that it improves productivity, and we also find that having bright, fresh and enthusiastic people brings new ideas to the fore, ideas that wouldn’t necessarily have been generated at all.

We also benefit from having another pipeline of talent for the organisation that provides an alternative to the traditional method of finding talent at universities. We find that we can shape our apprentices into the perfect employees because the scheme allows us to train them in the transferable skills they need in a career at EY. We offer 10 apprentice roles each year in the Cambridge office, and we offer over 400 apprentice roles nationally.

What apprenticeships are you likely to recruit in the next year?

We have two types of apprenticeships: business apprenticeships (which are higher level) and degree apprenticeships. We offer four of the former – Assurance; IT Risk & Assurance; Tax; Transactions. We offer two degree apprenticeships – Digital & Technology, and Business Leadership & Management.

It depends on the location in the UK as to what type and discipline you do. For a degree apprenticeship in Digital & Technology you would be based in London. In Cambridge offers Assurance apprenticeships only.

Our London location has the largest number because of the size of the office but our Cambridge business has a strong pull for Assurance.

How do you recruit apprentices?

To recruit we use a combination of campus activity, careers fairs, school visits and relationships, and of course digital. For the latter, we use social media to drive candidates to our website and to YouTube.

We also have monthly webinars, and candidates can ask questions online by registering in advance. For social media, we use Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

We have a rolling application process – openings are kept open until the roles are filled. Candidates have to have studied three A-levels or five Scottish Highers or equivalent by the time the programme starts. The application process is very digital. As well as online application forms, there are numerical tests, and after passing our criteria we then meet candidates.

For those wanting to find out if an EY Apprenticeship is for them, we offer internships, work experience and insight evenings. For year 12 students, we have the EY Business Academy, which balances on-the-job experience with business skills sessions. Business apprentices join at 18 years old, graduates when they’ve finished their degrees.

What’s a typical day like for an apprentice at EY and how do you train your apprentices?

The main activity is for apprentices to engage with clients they work on. In the Cambridge office, you join the Assurance Business Apprenticeship programme and are on-site in the clients’ offices.

The apprentices are there to ask the client questions on their accounts, sample data on the client’s financial statements, stock take at the client’s warehouse, and make sure the client is confident in the decisions we’re making. The programme is split between the job and the breaks for training at college. It’s a four and a half year programme (compared with a degree apprenticeship in London which is four years).

Our Cambridge apprentices finish with a Chartered Accountant qualification – they sit 15 exams over the course of the programme, and are given support by a councillor and line manager who has completed the same qualification.

How many of your apprentices stay on at the end of their programme?

Once qualified at least 60-70% stay on with the firm having gained an ACA qualification involving up to 15 exams. We find that regional offices have much better retention rates than London.

Which of the three Pledges on apprenticeships did you sign, and why?
  1. To consider an apprenticeship whenever we need new people
  2. To recruit at least one new apprentice this year
  3. To learn more about how we could introduce apprenticeships into our business

We signed b) and c). We already have a great apprenticeship scheme in the Cambridge office but we feel that there’s still a lot to do, such as increase and deepen relationships with schools and parents. So we see our pledges as a public commitment to make our scheme even better. Signing also raises our profile too, in the fight for talent.

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