University launches Level 6 accounting apprenticeship

A lecturer at Birmingham City University has won the backing of the Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA) for a campaign to create a new Level 6 degree apprenticeship, offering potential apprentices the opportunity to earn and learn, and qualify to honours degree level

The Level 6 degree apprenticeship would bridge the gap between the current Level 4 and Level 7 apprenticeships. The Level 4 apprenticeship only offers a foundation learning, while the Level 7 apprenticeship develops skills which are highly specialist.

In contrast, the proposed Level 6 degree apprenticeship will be equivalent to a degree-level course, without having to undertake the post-graduate training associated with the current Level 7. It will be one of the first apprenticeships available through universities and will be able to count as credit towards a degree in accounting.

The new apprenticeship will include 80% on-the-job training and 20% outside the business, although not necessarily in the classroom, and it will cover new and relevant topics not included in Level 4 such as technological capabilities and the use of technology systems in accountancy, cyber-crime and security risk, data protection legislation, and Making Tax Digital compliance among others.

The Level 6 degree apprenticeship will also change the learning process and unlike the existing degrees, apprenticeships, and accounting qualifications will not be as heavily exam based and will include systems technology training for the first time.

The proposed course will still use exams to test technical elements of accountancy and tax, but will shift focus so that it also includes work-based learning in the use of employers' own systems and processes, as well as core modules on cloud-based systems and the application of the latest technology being used in business for automation, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing.

A focus will also be included for the soft-skills required to practice, including consulting, presenting, discussing, debating, meetings, negotiations, team-working, and giving advice, so that individuals are well-rounded and ready for work.

Jonathan Mills, senior lecturer at Birmingham City University and non-executive director of Forest Phoenix Accountancy, who is behind the campaign for the new qualification, said he had been researching the option with employers and students for a number of years.

‘No degree, apprenticeship, or professional course, currently equips accountants with all the technical, technological and soft skills they need to meet the demands of modern business effectively. And when degree apprenticeships exist for surveyors, solicitors, and several for engineers of different types, it makes no sense that none has been created for a profession that is so important to businesses and that can have a significant impact on the productivity of UK SMEs.

‘This is why I am pleased to have the support of the Institute of Financial Accountants, a quantity of their members, along with the NHS, and Thomson Reuters.

‘However, we still need to recruit more employers that support this from retail, manufacturing, charities, and local government, in order to present the most convincing cross-sector proposal to the Institute for Apprenticeships,’ Mills said. 

IFA is supporting Mills’ proposal and is inviting feedback and comments from industry as part of a move to develop the initiative further.

John Edwards, IFA CEO, said: ‘For a long time, our members have expressed a desire for an improved apprenticeship programme, enabling them to provide on-the-job learning, but at the same time supporting their employees to gain degree-level knowledge rather than just a foundation.

‘We are delighted to be supporting a provisional bid to introduce a Level 6 degree apprenticeship, but want to hear back from active accountancy practices and members in business about the relevance to their businesses and their teams.

‘We feel that the Level 6 degree apprenticeship offers an unprecedented route to training with the opportunity for up to 100% funding, and 80% of the training done on-the-job, and so welcome this chance to support it.’

Anyone with an opinion on whether the Level 6 degree apprenticeship will be relevant to their business, who wish to express their thoughts on the matter, or be part of the potential trailblazers group should send their feedback or comments to education@ifa.org.uk by 19 December.

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