10 February 2021

Real stories: life as an Accountancy Apprentice

Future First alumni volunteer Abbie Hartley is a Professional Accounting Technician Apprentice working full-time with Whiting & Partners. She took time out of her busy day to tell us more about her career path, why she chose an apprenticeship and why she’s glad she chose this route over going to university.

Tell us a bit about your Apprenticeship and the route you are taking to get qualified?

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 work full time at Whiting & Partners alongside being on an AAT Training Agreement and Apprenticeship – I study part-time at First Intuition Accountancy College in Cambridge. I am now studying for the AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting as well as the Professional Accounting Technician Apprenticeship, hopefully after I finish this in March 2022, I will move onto ACCA or ACA alongside the Professional Accountant Apprenticeship.

Out of all the routes open to you, why did you decide to do an apprenticeship? What are your future goals?

The main reason I was interested in an Apprenticeship is because I learn and work best in a professional environment where I can gain knowledge from those with experience. 

Since starting work at 16 I have always had the motivation to work – and so studying for three or four years at university was something that I knew wouldn’t suit what I wanted to do. 

An Apprenticeship has a clear progression route and has allowed me to focus on my career with training and qualifications that link directly to the tasks I deal with at work. As an apprentice I learn from colleagues with more experience than I have, and I have a brilliant mentor who is always happy to run through anything work or study related. 

Financially, an Apprenticeship made more sense to me than university: my employer covers my college fees, whereas if I had gone to university this would have cost me £27,000 in tuition fees. Now I have no debt whilst being paid to study and work! 

My long-term aim is to qualify as a Chartered Accountant by the age of 23 and eventually become a Partner of the firm. I hope to progress at work and through job titles, from Trainee, Qualified, Assistant Manager, Manager, Associate, Partner. I recognise this requires dedication and I will work hard to make sure I can achieve as much as I can in my career. 

Since I have been at work, I have seen colleagues who were in the exact same position as me when I started at Whiting & Partners five years ago, now qualifying as Chartered Accountants. This makes me want to work hard as I know if I put the effort in, I can also achieve this. Having colleagues to look up to has been a real driver to put the most I can into the Apprenticeship.

What did you find challenging at school and how did you overcome this?

Something I found a challenge at school was writing. Accountancy is a client-based industry and written communication is key. The Apprenticeship allows me to focus on this skill where I am required to write essays regularly. I have also taken opportunities to improve from my time volunteering with Future First where I have written articles for students about the Apprenticeship pathway and other careers advice. But I very much have to work hard to achieve the results I wish to – at the start of year 11 I was between two grades in Maths. To push myself to achieve the higher of these two grades I went into school an hour early three times a week to revise Maths, this worked out to be an extra 100 hours of revision covered in the year! 

As an Apprentice, what does an average week look like for you? 

My average day is varied across the week; I could be working from the office, or on an audit at a client’s premises. I do a range of work for clients in the sector specialisms of Agriculture, Construction, Contractors, Manufacturing, Property Investment, Retail, Road Haulage, Technology, and UK subsidiaries of overseas companies. This means I am able to gain experience in many different services through hands on experience and at college. Currently, I specialise in Company Secretarial and Book-keeping. Company Secretarial involves tasks such as change of ownership of business, share distributions, appointment of directors, all of which I produce and file forms with Companies House to make sure business records are up to date. I enjoy tasks like this as I recognise it is so important that the client’s records are correct. Book-keeping involves keeping business records up to date, analysing expenses and income from invoices. 

With the Apprenticeship, 20% of my work is ‘off the job’ where I attend college at First Intuition Accountancy College in Cambridge. My college courses are usually once a week and each course lasts around eight weeks and then there is an exam. 

Work has been brilliant at supporting my college courses to make sure I am prepared for my exams. Importantly, I am able to link what I have learnt at college to work, and even what I have learnt at work to college.

View our related resources:

Thinking of doing an apprenticeship? Read Abbie’s top tips

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