08 February 2021

Thinking of doing an apprenticeship?

As part of our support for National Apprenticeship Week, Future First caught up with Bottisham Village College alumna and Future First alumni volunteer, Abbie Hartley, who is currently undertaking a Professional Accounting Technician Apprenticeship. Abbie works as a Trainee Accountant for Whiting & Partners and as part of her apprenticeship, attends First Intuition Accountancy College for ‘off the job training’ 20% of her time.  We asked Abbie for her top tips for those thinking about the apprenticeship pathway.

Abbie’s top tips

You do you – find something that interests you: All of my college friends went to university, but I decided this wasn’t the right option for me because I knew what industry and job I wanted to go into. Don’t be overly influenced by your peers – when choosing a career, it is important to look long term – where could you be in that industry in 50 years’ time?

Work hard and try your best at everything you do: No one is going to put in the work for you, you can only do this yourself. When doing anything, do it well, with 110% effort – whether this be studying at college or at work. The more you put in the more you will learn.

Research – consider your end goal: When looking into a career in Accountancy I researched the different areas and different qualifications available to decide which route I wanted to take. As an 18-year-old deciding on how to start my career I felt it was really important to make the right decision.  My research showed that you still had to take the Accountancy exams after you finish university to become a Chartered Accountant, as well as having to have 36 months’ work experience; by taking the Apprenticeship route, you may be surprised to know that I will qualify as a Chartered Accountant before a graduate from university. In addition, I would also have an extra three years’ worth of work experience. It is just a different route to get to the same end goal.

Undertake work experience: Don’t underestimate the value of work experience. I undertook work experience at two accounting firms, and as I enjoyed one of the placements so much, I was invited back for some more work experience and after that was offered my job. 

Motivate yourself: I received job offers and accepted one from Whiting & Partners before I even undertook my A Level exams – I felt this gave me extra motivation to do as well as I could in the examinations because I had something to aim for.

Prepare: When I was preparing for video interviews for my Apprenticeship, I created A4 pieces of paper with details of potential discussion topics, for example ‘work’, ‘education’, ‘outside of college’ and questions I had for the interviewer. This allowed me to identify my key achievements and anything that made me ‘stand out’ in a competitive job market. I was then able to bring these discussion topics into the interview when relevant.

Once you are there, keep organised: Whether at school, college or work, organisation is key in any career. For example, in Accountancy, January is a busy month for tax returns. To keep organised I make a list of all the tasks I need to do in order of priority, then tick them off the to do list once complete, adding new ones when needed. I send an email at the end of the week to all of the partners and managers so they can see where their tasks are in my list. This allows them to update me if their task has become more urgent or if some tasks need to be delegated elsewhere. Since March, due to the pandemic, I have been working from home. I make sure I keep my calendar up to date so my managers can see what clients’ work I am due to work on. As a result of keeping organised I have been able to work effectively and continue to work from home without being furloughed as a Trainee – showing that my managers have trust in me to work independently.

Who is an Apprenticeship for?

Apprenticeships are for anyone above the age of 16 and entry requirements are set by the company offering the apprenticeship. The level of apprenticeship you can apply for will differ depending on your qualifications. For example, if you have achieved five good GCSE grades and good post 16 results you may want to look at an Advanced or Higher Apprenticeship. If you like the idea of earning while learning and are motivated and committed, an apprenticeship might be a good next step to look into.

Here are some useful links for those thinking of the Apprenticeship route:

  • National Apprenticeship Service (http://nas.apprenticeships.org.uk/) – this is a great website where you can search for opportunities as well as watch videos about current apprentices.
  • Get In Go Far (www.getingofar.gov.uk)government funded website on apprenticeships
  • Not Going to Uni (http://www.notgoingtouni.co.uk/)
  • Plotr (www.plotr.co.uk) – Plotr is a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about career options. There’s lots of information about apprenticeships, interesting articles to inspire you, and lots more.
  • Student Ladder (www.studentladder.co.uk) – check out Student Ladder for a range of opportunities including ‘School Leaver Programmes’, which are also known as Higher Apprenticeships.

View our related resources:

Real stories: Katie and Lewis on apprenticeships and the impact of alumni role models

FREE National Apprenticeship Week activity pack for schools

FREE Template email for alumni support