Every year, the Big Lottery Fund gives out millions of pounds from the National Lottery to community groups and projects that improve health, education and the environment. Naturally, finance is a huge part of what we do.
We have approximately 1000 employees based across the UK including 23 people within the finance department who we actively encourage to gain formal qualifications. Over recent years, we’ve developed a finance apprenticeship scheme as a way to grow our own talent in combination with AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) and Kaplan.
Our scheme was piloted in 2010 when we took on one apprentice and since then we’ve taken on two finance apprentices each year. Importantly, with the government investing more support into apprenticeship schemes, the training of our apprentices was completely funded.
Along the way, we’ve learnt there are some basic guidelines and things to remember when implementing a scheme such as this.
Find the right qualification
Spend time investing in the right qualification so you can be sure your staff will come out with the right knowledge and skills to do the job.
We put our apprentices through the AAT Accounting Qualification as it provides students with a good in depth knowledge of finance. Through their studies, they are constantly given ways to implement their learning in the workplace which means we all see results.
Primarily the apprentices begin their time at Big Lottery Fund working within the transactional team (purchase ledger type roles). Within these roles and with the knowledge and skills they acquire from their AAT studies they are then well placed for promotion.
Find the right training provider
An apprenticeship programme is a three way partnership between your organisation, your apprentice and their training provider. Finding the right training provider is crucial. It will determine if your apprentices study part-time, online or via distance learning, and it will also determine how involved you as an employer will be. Needless to say, the more involved you are and the more open the lines of communication, the better.
Not only do the apprentices need to be supported from you as an employer, but they also need to receive support from their training provider. Consider the factors that add value to the learning experience (such as extra study tools, flexible classes and assessments etc.) as these could make all the difference.
Make the investment
Taking on an apprentice means you are taking responsibility for their career development. You need to ensure you put the proper measures and support in place to ensure a successful programme for all involved.
Invest in your apprenticeship programme by:
– familiarising yourself with all of the appropriate information – including study leave requirements, apprenticeship wages and funding.
– implementing a mentor system to ensure your apprentice is nurtured, supported and trained effectively.
– planning appropriate evaluation methods so you can demonstrate how you’ve shaped your apprentices into more productive and experienced workers.
Reap the benefits
Implementing our own apprenticeship scheme has meant that we haven’t had to recruit externally for roles other than first level roles within the transactional team. This means that staff who have been promoted do not require lengthy inductions as they already have knowledge of systems and processes so they’re productive in their new roles much more quickly.
Our apprenticeship programme has also brought younger people into the organisation that previously we wouldn’t have considered. In the past, we have recruited people aged 21 and over, many of whom were graduates. Now we recruit school leavers as well as graduates.
It’s understandable that some businesses would be wary of hiring school leavers but often going through the interview process will allow you to find individuals with the right attributes that you as an organisation can build on, growing talent from within.
From our experiences, school leavers have added a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the department. By ‘cherry picking’ those keen and motivated individuals we get the chance to mould them to our organisation, and teach them the values and ethos we value most.
Danielle Davis MAAT, Age 25
Programmes Leader – Accountancy and Payroll Apprenticeships
“After leaving school at 16 I enrolled at college full-time to study business studies but needed to support myself financially. This resulted in me having to work up to three different part-time jobs at a time ranging from working in a fast food restaurant to working as a receptionist for a charity.
“I always knew I wanted to work in the field of finance, but after leaving college I felt that university wasn’t for me. I wanted to get out and work as soon as I could and didn’t want any of the student debt that came with university.
“A family member told me about AAT as an alternative route to becoming a qualified accountant without going to university; I then started looking for employers who would be willing to support me whilst I completed my AAT qualification. Within only a few months of leaving college I started my job at BPP who supported me through my AAT qualification.
I work at BPP as the programme leader for our accountancy and payroll apprenticeships which amongst other things involves making sure that the quality of our apprenticeship programme is maintained to a high level and is of value for those undertaking an apprenticeship in these areas.
“I also manage a team of assessors to ensure that we are providing a consistent approach to assessments across the many different apprenticeships we deliver.
“Lastly I support our professional apprenticeships team across England, currently a team of 30 plus and growing, in ensuring that the delivery of our accountancy and payroll apprenticeships is effective, consistent and of high quality.
“I am very passionate about my job and through my own experience of an apprenticeship, know how valuable they are. I would certainly recommend to anyone considering a career in finance to consider AAT, it was the right choice for me and have not looked back.”
Jonathan Bennett – Age 20
Trainee Accounting Technician – Mazars LLP – Birmingham
“I knew that I’d be earning a wage while learning, and with university costs rising so much, it’s becoming a big factor for students when deciding what to do after school.
“I had always wanted to pursue a career in accountancy and since starting my apprenticeship, I’ve been gaining so much knowledge and experience in many areas. It’s been a fantastic opportunity and is giving me the chance to reach my full potential as an accountant.”