FI London Managing Director, Hazel Rogers, spoke with Grant Thornton UK LLP Early Careers Manager, Lucy Hayes, about the benefits of a school leaver programme and why ‘apprenticeships are the future’ in the accountancy industry. Published during National Apprenticeship Week 2023, the interview explored the #SkillsForLife that apprentices gain from such a programme and why these skills are vital to any workforce.
What is your experience in developing school leaver programmes within the accountancy sector?
Grant Thornton have championed school leavers for several years now and we strive to keep our programmes market leading. We recognise that school leavers are an asset to our business, bringing fresh perspectives and a strong sense of loyalty to our firm.
What would you say are the benefits of offering routes into the profession for school leavers?
There are lots of benefits to bringing school leavers into the profession. Young minds are adaptable and open to learning, much like the proverbial sponge! Our school leavers bring forward fresh ideas and challenge traditional ways of thinking. We have great retention rates with our school leavers, who are grateful for their big break into the industry.
What are the key considerations you believe are important in developing a programme for school leavers?
A school leaver programme needs to strike the right balance between support and challenge. Balancing work, life and studying are not easy, so developing the key skills of prioritisation, organisation, commitment, and professionalism is vital. Having a strong tripartite relationship between the school leaver, employer and training provider is the key to a successful school leaver programme.
What challenges did you face in setting up your apprenticeship programmes, and how did you overcome them?
Ensuring the training provider is the right fit for our school leaver trainee population is something we have learnt is important as we realised that what works for one group of trainees may not be effective for others. By reviewing the programmes and working closely with the tuition providers, we can identify what areas are working and what needs to change and this is a continuous process.
What can the government do to encourage more employers to hire apprentices?
The government could use employer case studies to showcase the benefits of apprenticeships in an organisation. They can also continue to honour the co-investment terms that are currently in place, as these are supportive to employers too.
If the government can leverage the benefits to employers, such as filling skills gaps and developing young people by supporting essential skills and behaviours, they can make a point of really promoting them in the right places: skills fairs, institute and training provider websites and recruitment sites.
What advice would you give to employers considering taking on an apprentice for the first time?
I would say that it is important to work with a well-organised training provider that has experience in delivering apprenticeships. The key to a successful apprenticeship is having a good tripartite relationship between the student, training provider, and employer. If anyone is unsure whether the effort outweighs the reward, I would say to them that apprenticeships are the future of our industry. Having well-rounded advisors with technical knowledge, and a strong framework of required skills and behaviours is a ‘must’ if we’re going to maintain the levels of quality expected within our industry.
Find guidance on creating the best apprenticeship programmes for your business and our resources on recruitment, development and retention here.