Below are some of the reasons why biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca use apprenticeships to train their finance team. We asked both Line Managers and apprentices to answer the questions below and give their perspectives.
What value do you think the apprenticeship programme adds to the gaining of professional finance qualifications?
The Line Managers we spoke to agreed that the apprenticeship programme adds a lot of value to the gaining of professional finance qualifications.
One Line Manager of the apprentices at AstraZeneca commented that “learning ‘hands on’ whilst on the job brings their studies to life and helps them to question and understand the ‘How’, ‘Why’ and the ‘So What.” Another agreed that “by giving the apprentices the actual ‘hands-on’ experience of performing tasks in line with the qualifications, it enables them to understand what is learnt in the classroom”.
The Line Managers reflected on how apprenticeships are a great way for trainees to “see how the different accounting subjects connect, from an end-to-end point of view in a real business/ finance environment. This helps build the strong finance foundations needed to put them in good stead for future roles.” Furthermore, it “ensures apprentices’ learnings are embedded to be called upon in future roles within the organisation that will aid their progression”.
Moreover, one Line Manager spoke about how apprenticeships also offer valuable life skills that support trainees to build resilience and confidence. These not only help them towards preparing and passing their exams but sets them up for a successful career. Another comments how if their apprentices “understand the entry-level detail, it will give our organisation a well-rounded, highly experienced and educated employee for the future”.
How do you feel the onboarding and initial induction of the apprentices went?
AstraZeneca’s Line Manager relays how “the onboarding and initial induction were well provided by First Intuition.”
How are you finding the apprenticeship programme, are there particular aspects that are benefiting your learning?
All of the AstraZeneca apprentices we spoke to were positive about their experience in the apprenticeship programme.
One student said that “overall I think the apprenticeship programme is going really well. The opportunity to have the in-person college sessions, with extra resources available online are really helpful. The in-person sessions allow me to ask questions to the tutors and gain a better understanding of what I am learning. As well as this, the in-person sessions allow the tutors to ask us questions on what we have learnt which tests my knowledge and improves my memory. The online material gives me the opportunity to complete mocks online and to go over previous modules that may be beneficial for the future.”
Another student noted that the apprenticeship programme has enabled them “to gain so much knowledge and improve [their] skills not only in finance but in areas such as excel and systems within finance”. They have also been able to “network with different colleagues throughout Global Finance Services which has broadened [their] knowledge of what happens within finance and how it links to [their] rotation”.
Whilst another says “I am really enjoying this apprenticeship programme, the mix of learning on the job and studying academically is really benefitting my knowledge and development. The online videos on FI Learn are a particular aspect that I believe is developing my learning. I can walk through different topics at my own pace which means I can go over areas I have struggled with, as well as gain a basic understanding of a new module before actually starting it in college. At college when we have a re-cap over the previous study day, it really helps jog my memory to ensure I remember key information”.
What positives have you seen since starting the apprenticeship programme?
The Line Managers comment on how their apprentices are growing in confidence and showing maturity, leadership and fantastic overall commitment to the programme. One says how their trainee is “more than confident presenting her progress and learning to her peers and leading the monthly team meetings”. Another comments on how their trainee’s ability to use their systems, understand intercompany accounting ways of working, as well as the understanding of other areas of the business has grown. Furthermore, the Line Managers comment on how networking and presentation skills continue to improve.
AstraZeneca’s apprentices speak about how since joining the apprenticeship programme they have seen multiple positives in themselves.
“My confidence has grown; I am more organised and I think both my verbal and written communication has improved.”
“Since starting the apprenticeship programme, my confidence has grown, my skills and knowledge in different areas such as excel has increased. I have also been able to push myself out of my comfort zone by making calls daily or presenting.”
“My communication skills, team working, problem-solving and IT skills have all improved greatly.”
What has First Intuition done to ensure the programmes are going well?
The overall consensus from the apprentices that we spoke to was that First Intuition has provided “lots of support throughout the programme to make sure it is all going well.”
Specifically, one apprentice comments on how “First Intuition has provided support through catchups with a designated skills and development coach to discuss how the apprenticeship is going every couple of months.” This is in addition to calls with other members of First Intuition, such as tutors, to support students through their studies and answer any questions they may have.
Another apprentice comments on how “the online resources are very useful to help develop [their] knowledge and understanding on specific topics.” Furthermore, when students needed extra support to go through areas of the course they were struggling with, “First Intuition was very efficient to put that in place, we had regular contact with Ben Bulman which was really beneficial.”
Claire Killips, First Intuition’s Skills & Development Coach for the AstraZeneca apprentices comments:
“The students studying with us for their accountancy qualifications from AstraZeneca have responded really well to the apprenticeship programme. The structure of this programme has supported them in achieving the various areas of knowledge, skills and behaviours required not just for the apprenticeship and their professional qualification, but for them to apply in the workplace to progress in their own careers. Their progression has been excellent throughout their programme and in working towards their End Point Assessment, so are well on the way to excelling into a professional accounting role or as a taxation technician.”
How do you feel the relationship between Line Managers, apprentices and First Intuition has worked?
One of AstraZeneca’s Line Managers comments that “it’s been great, I have a fantastic relationship with my trainee. The Line Manager roles are key for the apprentice’s success and the Skills Coach from First Intuition has been a great support to ensure we are keeping on track by chairing regular progress reviews.”
Ben Bullman, First Intuition Client Director comments:
“I was delighted when AstraZeneca asked us for help in supporting them with establishing a finance apprenticeship. This process started well over a year before the apprentices took up their positions, meaning full planning to match the programme structure, qualification routes and job roles could be completed. As a result, everyone involved bought into the programme, evident by the support the apprentices have received. This was apparent during the selection of candidates and the pre start sessions for the apprentices, where line manages gave them a fabulous welcome and positive message ahead of starting. This culture has continued and really means everyone is invested in the programme.
From the hard work of the apprentices and care for each other, the interest and motivation they receive from managers, to the technical quality and engagement of the team at First Intuition. I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this project and feel this is just the start of the success we can all share.”
What one piece of advice would you offer other organisations looking to start an apprenticeship programme?
The Line Managers recommend that organisations “try and engage the wider business teams to devise an apprentice ‘job description’ and role that has the 2 to 5 role planned out in advance to onboarding the apprentices.” As well as “make sure apprentices have suitable job roles to support the classroom learnings, and have Line Managers that will be committed to dedicating their time and support in the early days. Giving them this strong foundation from the start will enable the apprentices to soon start running on their own!”