Last month we introduced the idea that apprenticeships can really help small and growing businesses and we thought that this month we would follow that up by looking at the career path of becoming an accountant and can apprenticeships help. Those of you looking for some meaty tax and accounting issues well it’s the budget next month so we thought we’d tackle some of those things then.
Accountancy in the UK is actually one of those industries where the governing bodies have managed to look after their own interests quite well and in consequence for the would be accountant it can be a bit of a muddle, which does what.
So there are 5 main accounting bodies, ICAEW, CIMA, ACCA, AAT and CIPFA follow the links if you’re interested in seeing the difference. There will always be some argument as to which is best or hardest, but let’s leave that to one side and see what they do and how you might get into them.
The AAT qualification is a great starting platform for accountancy as it gives exemptions from the exams of the other 4 accounting bodies and it is here that there are apprenticeships to be had. It can take about 2 years to complete up to level 4 AAT although some students do it faster.
The Big 4 accounting firms have been leading the way here taking school leavers and putting them on a 5/6 year training programme to do the AAT make use of the exemptions and move on to the ICAEW qualification. This qualification has generally been in strong in accountancy practice, although the ICAEW is making efforts to recruit people from industry. Generally students qualify in practice and then either chose to remain in practice or move into industry.
What this offers students then is the opportunity to be a fully qualified accountant without having to go to university and have accumulated a large student debt.
The ACCA qualification is similar to the ICAEW in that it is often under taken in accounting practices it has tended to be more flexible as students are not required to be on a training contract as with the ICAEW, this has often made it more attractive to the smaller accounting practices. The outcome is often similar with students having the flexibility to either work in industry or practice.
CIMA is the qualification that is generally done by those that know that they want to work in industry and have no interest in learning the vagaries of tax and audit and so are unlikely to work in practice although there are always exceptions to every rule.
CIPFA is the qualification that concentrates generally on large government bodies, so local councils, NHS, and some of the big accounting practices that have clients in these areas so PWC, Grant Thornton amongst others.
As the AAT is the platform for these other qualifications and attracts apprenticeship funding there has been a significant growth in the both the number of employers and the number of students.
Ian Fidock the managing director of First Intuition Maidstone a small local private college on Kings St in Maidstone, says that AAT recruitment is definitely increasing in the Maidstone area and the calibre of students choosing not to go to university is also increasing.
Interestingly there seems to be a lower take up on the apprenticeship scheme locally than you might expect given the grant money available, it appears that accountancy firms are reluctant to take up the money that’s available or are not fully aware of the funding thats available..
So if you think accountancy is for you then most firms will be thinking about their September intake now so get your CV out, pop round and see a few and maybe talk them into taking on an apprentice.