I am a member of a couple of facebook groups for accountants and bookkeepers and the support that is given to each other is invaluable anyway, but the support has been even more important over the past few months.

Last week in one of the groups, another accountant reached out for information about recruiting an apprentice with a few questions.  He had seen Lewis’ blog and my earlier posts about him.

I was happy to oblige and he had 4 questions (to start with).   I thought I would share my answers in a blog.  So far, our apprentice journey has been a mostly positive one. I have experience teaching and assessing accounting apprentices but not employing and working with them so it a new experience, although I probably have an advantage!

Here are the 4 questions I was asked

  1.  Did the applicants have any knowledge of accounting or is it a total blank page?

I decided that I would prefer an apprentice in the 18 plus age bracket, this is mainly based on my experience from teaching and there are many young people who complete A levels or other post 16 qualifications who are interested in a career in accounting and don’t want to go to university.

Most of our applicants had done business studies either at GCSE, A level or both with some basic accounting but I would assume no knowledge. Lewis, our apprentice had completed an online accounting course since leaving sixth form which gave him a little knowledge but not loads.

When recruiting it was important that they had shown some interest and had done some research about the accounting professions and also about our business.  Disappointingly some hadn’t bothered.

  • What are the costs to the business other than time investment?

There are additional software and IT related costs that are no different to recruiting any other team member.  Of course there are salary costs and possibly additional training costs.  School leavers don’t always have skills such as excel, and outlook.  Lewis did an online excel course at a minimal cost that has given him the basics.

There is a significant time investment, Lewis picks things up very quickly and already after a month he is looking after 3 bookkeeping clients himself with minimal input from the rest of the team, along with other adhoc jobs.

Although Lewis has started on the apprentice rate we have plans to increase that as he progresses through the course.

All AAT costs are covered by the training provider at level 2.  When he progesses to level 3 we will have to pay for AAT Assessments as the only assessment actually required for the apprentice standards is the synoptic (bizarre but that is the way it is!)

  • What requirements do the learning providers have to make you an acceptable placement?

All vacancies need to be advertised on the apprentice vacancy database which the provider did for us.  We were required to sign up with gov.uk apprentice service as an employer, it was fairly straightforward.  There were a few questionnaires to complete around the role and with regards to health and safety, which I am sure usually would be done at the office but due to Covid we did them all via email.

It is not a great deal different to employing someone else with regards to terms and conditions etc.

There are a lot of providers, some better than others.  I selected our local college as I know the tutor, and Sharon, our accounts assistant has just completed her course there and had a good experience

So far the college experience has been mostly positive for Lewis but I was disappointed with the service provided by the business development team.  Ultimately they are selling a service and I felt it was more about ‘bums on seats’ rather than the right person in a role.  The right person in the role was key for us.

  • What does the college/workplace time split look like?

An apprentice must do 20% off the job training which includes college time and also time spent at work, such as Xero training, Xero updates, sat with us observing training clients, etc.  I would recommend keeping a log of all the training.  One criticism of apprentice audits I am familiar with has been the lack of being able to evidence the 20% off the job training.  Lewis is keeping a log and has set up a folder and keeps evidence, such as diary entries for any training he has sat in on, completing his xero certification, excel training certificate etc

Lewis currently attends college for 6 hours each week and works 24 at the office. Apprentices must do a minimum of 30 hours per week and if not at college due to college holidays they must work in the office, but we still need to ensure that he completes 20% off the job training so it is important not to rely on college ours for this.  It is likely we will increase Lewis hours to 37.5 within a few months.

Next installment of Lewis’ blog to follow shortly…….

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