Growth & Customers

How accountants can work with apprentices

A new collaborative project between some of the top firms in the UK accountancy industry has been launched to encourage students from less privileged backgrounds to take up accountancy as a career. The Access Accountancy Scheme has promised to provide 3,750 annual work placements by 2019. These work placements could possibly lead to further opportunities with internships and apprenticeships, so how would this be beneficial to both parties?

Acquiring work experience is a valuable tool used by many people to gain access into a particular profession. Job opportunities in the accounting industry can be competitive, and employers tend to hire applicants for accounting positions who possess the most relevant experience to the role of the job. Accounting internships and apprenticeships offer real opportunities for aspiring accountants to gain knowledge and develop their accounting skills, and it is also a great way for partners in a practice to look at what talent there is before committing to offering a new graduate a full-time position. In addition to gaining valuable experience, internship and apprenticeship opportunities enable individuals to add more qualifications to their CV.

Difference between internships and apprenticeships

In general, apprenticeships are seen as long-term trainees who are part of the company, and interns are often unpaid and with the company for a limited amount of time. Interns are similar to work experience placements – they are primarily getting a feel for the job and the industry and they are there to learn. There is no guarantee of a position after their placement has finished, but in the meantime they have gained valuable insight and made some good contacts for future prospects.

Apprenticeships have seen a recent revival in popularity, as they have become a more viable alternative to expensive university tuition fees. Businesses taking on apprentices are expected to provide actual training and experience on the job leading to recognised qualifications, and they must be treated as employees. Apprenticeships can last between one to fours years, but there is no obligation to offer the worker a position once the apprenticeship has finished. According to ACAS, SMEs provide up to 80 per cent of apprentice places, so what are the benefits? There are some very obvious benefits to taking on an apprentice; it’s more than about taking advantage of cheap labour:

1. Fill a skills gap

A lot of young people have good IT skills, and they can be trained to suit your specific company needs. They can also help you stay at the front-end of your industry by plugging a gap that you are finding difficult to cover. They will also bring a different outlook to the way in which a company operates, and they may have some interesting suggestions as to how certain areas, for example, online marketing may be improved

2. The motivation bug

Young people are usually keen to learn and eager to prove that they have a place in their chosen industry. They are often grateful for the opportunity, and this fresh injection of enthusiasm can often rub off on to other more lacklustre members of the workforce. They will often repay your investment into their future with loyalty and a solid work ethic

3. Reduces training and recruitment costs

Training apprentices often makes more financial sense than hiring skilled staff. This can free up resources to improve efficiency and productivity, and make you more competitive within your market. Overall, offering apprenticeships should lower your training and recruitment costs.

Benefits for accounting internships

During an accounting internship, an intern has an opportunity to get familiar with the work environment and the culture of businesses. For this reason, accounting interns develop an understanding of working in a professional atmosphere as well as developing working relationships with other accounting professionals. Also, internship opportunities may lead to full-time employment in many organisations.

Benefits for accounting apprenticeships

An apprenticeship programme allows students to gain practical experience while still studying for their accountancy qualifications. Apprenticeship programmes typically last between one to two years. Individuals interested in gaining experience through an accounting apprenticeship should research national bodies, employers and vocational colleges. Some employers and national organisations sponsor apprenticeship programmes, and education centres may offer similar services allowing students to acquire some level of certification after completing the apprenticeship.Legally, apprentices must be paid hourly wages or salaries while working under the direction of accounting supervisors.

Interns don’t have to be paid as they are not classed as actually working, but there are strict guidelines to what this definition of ‘working’ is. There are three levels of apprentices starting at intermediate level, advanced level and the top one is a higher apprenticeship. Individuals who complete accounting apprenticeship programmes qualify for many positions, such as accounting assistants, administrators, bookkeepers, finance assistants and other roles. Individuals who have completed the higher apprenticeship programmes generally qualify for higher-level accountancy positions. For further information go to