AAT urges people not to forget apprenticeships during pandemic

As National Apprenticeship Week (8-14 February 2021) begins, AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) is urging people of all ages to consider taking up apprenticeships to boost their skills and employability

Previous research by AAT has shown that there is significant interest in the accountancy profession as a stable career choice, with 19% of respondents in a recent survey saying they believed accountancy, banking and finance were the most stable professions.

AAT has also seen an uptick in interest in apprenticeships, particularly from young people interested in studying vocational qualifications as alternatives to university, as well as a rise in enquiries from school leavers.

This is echoed in findings from KPMG released this week, which show how the firm has been supporting its apprentices throughout the pandemic. This includes strengthening support to help apprentices gain their qualifications following the company-wide move to remote working, maintaining engagement with existing apprentices and adapting their onboarding process for new apprentices who joined the business in October 2020.

Anthony Clarke, business development manager, (employers), AAT, said: ‘During the last 12 months apprentices and their employers have faced huge challenges, but they have been able to adapt and progress despite this and we applaud them for their resilience and determination.

‘AAT is encouraged by the commitment to apprenticeships our clients continue to show in recruiting and developing apprentices, both now and in the future.

‘The past year has led many people to reconsider their options, including pursuing a role in a more stable profession with in-demand skills such as accountancy. An apprenticeship can be an ideal way to gain these skills through studying with AAT alongside working, enabling apprentices to implement what they’ve learned whilst on the job and see how their studies can be applied practically.

‘Now, more than ever, is the time for people to invest in their skills to ensure they can succeed in a rapidly changing business environment, including developing the strong financial acumen and technical accountancy skills needed in the economic landscape we find ourselves facing.

‘National Apprenticeship Week showcases the incredible commitment shown this year by apprentices, employers, colleges and training providers, and is a great opportunity for people to reflect upon the next steps in their career.’

Emma Noble, KPMG360° apprenticeship performance leader, KPMG, said: ‘Since all 17,000 KPMG employees – including our 600 apprenticeships – moved to remote working in March 2020, we have supported our apprentices by encouraging them to continue working on their Skills and Behaviour submissions and End Point Assessment activity.

‘This helped them to remain engaged with the programme and ensured they had ongoing contact with the training provider coaches. Additionally, we chose not to rotate our apprentices into new teams in May 2020 so they would be able to stay with the team they had worked with in the office for six months, rather than having to adapt to a new team and learn a new area of the business, and encouraged our apprentices to support each other as well as reminding them of Covid support options and initiatives.

‘We also worked with our training provider to provide additional support for apprentices, including extra self-study days, relaxing criteria around the number of exam attempts permitted, and live support sessions for each module which were tailored to best suit the students attending and gave them an opportunity to ask questions before their exam.

‘Our apprentices also have access to a wide range of existing support including tutors, online forums, and a dedicated performance support team.

‘Lastly, we welcomed 220 new apprentices in October 2020 and so have adapted our induction process for new apprentices. This included running a week-long virtual event in small groups, facilitated by two trainers, and with a focus on networking and apprentices getting to know each other, as well as signposting available support and the importance of building networks and community for success.’

Busting the myths around apprenticeships

The theme of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week is ‘Build the Future’, encouraging everyone to consider how apprenticeships help individuals to build the skills and knowledge for the future.

Although the common perception of apprenticeships is that they are aimed at school leavers and primarily focused on jobs in the trades, in fact apprenticeships are open to people of all ages and available in a wide variety of sectors, including accountancy.

Clarke added: ‘Historically, apprenticeships were commonly perceived as only being open to young people and focused traditionally on manual sectors. This has changed significantly in recent years with the introduction of Apprenticeship Standards really raising the bar for apprentices and employers alike when it comes to skills development.

‘Apprenticeships also have huge benefits for employers, helping to develop well-rounded, highly qualified professionals who can help upskill the business as a whole. For employers who are already taking advantage of the apprenticeship levy, they can make the levy ‘work harder’ for them by using apprenticeship pathways to support current colleagues’ development and progression, as well as recruitment of new talent.’

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