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…….

Accounting for Covid-19 in Your Financial Reporting

The current pandemic, as well as the ensuing lockdown and travel restriction measures, are an unprecedented event in our era, and something that nobody could have predicted the extent of. 

The decisions that were taken and the measures adopted to protect everybody’s health in the past months have been beneficial for the health system, but it has lead to a complicated situation for small and local businesses. If you manage or own a business, understanding the relationship between the pandemic and your financial reporting is vital to help you to navigate through this year, as well as offering you valuable insights.

Covid-19 and Its Implications on your accounting statements

As you will know, Covid-19 quickly spread across Europe. As it spread, the governments quickly implemented rules that would help contain the virus and preserve the health of as many individuals as possible.

This came with many problems for the economy. As countries started to close their borders and flights halted, the travel and tourism industry took a significant hit. But, the travel industry is not the only one to be affected. Among the ones suffering the worst consequences of Covid-19, the industries of transport, retail, and entertainment have also hit a record low in many years. This virus has had a deep impact on many industries and as such, considering the consequences is necessary for a clear vision of the future prospects of your business. 

Keeping your accounts and projections up to date

In order to consider the impact of Covid-19 on your accounts and future prospects, you should endeavour to keep all of your financial statements up to date. By managing your financial statements and accounts and regularly updating them, you can:

  • Highlight where you can cut your costs
  • Highlight growth opportunities
  • Identify your profitable and unprofitable customers
  • Evaluate your costs, identify any contracts that could be renegotiated or cut altogether
  • Plan for future changes that might occur 

By understanding where your business is in terms of finances, you can be better prepared for the changes as they unfold. Unfortunately, no one knows what the future holds at the moment, and the changes that are happening are doing so quickly and often without warning. 

We can help you to keep your financial information up to date. As well as ensure that you are getting the right support from the selection of Government handouts. 

Leveraging The Help, That’s Available To You.

In these unprecedented times, the government are doing what they can to help small shops, stores, local businesses, and hospitality venues. Since the second lockdown was announced, the government have begun to announce extensions to the schemes already in place to support businesses. At some point in the future, you may be asked to show how your business was adversely affected by the situation, so your financial records are very important when deciding whether to take up the government help. Having up to date financial information will help you to make a decision on the right course of action to support your business and choose from the options that are available to you at the moment. 

New announcements are being made daily, the following support is to be made available during this next lockdown:

  • Self-employed grant up to 80% of trading profits – not the original 40%
  • Businesses can apply to banks for government-backed support until January 31st
  • Furlough Scheme is extended until March, with businesses receiving 80% of employees wage
  • Businesses forced to close will be eligible to receive a grant of up to £3,000 per month – the grants will be based on business rates

It is a sensible idea to hire a professional accountant who can help you navigate through the steps of compiling a report, identifying the strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, such professionals can help you choose the best action plan as well as advise you on the options available right now for your business.