Life is tough on the front line of accountancy. For more than five years, our intrepid correspondent has been bringing us news and views from a typical West Country practice.
No such thing as a free lunch
... but there might be some free labour out there! For many years I have given local secondary school pupils a week of work experience, just one a year, and we have found this far less disruptive that I originally feared. In fact, most of them have been quite useful.
I always say to them on their first day that it's going to be a two-way deal. We'll give them experience of going to work, being in an office, and we'll try to give them something useful to do. In exchange we usually ask them to do something fairly menial that we don't have the staff or time for - like clearing out the archives or sorting out redundant files.
In the last year we have come across a new sort of work experience - students and graduates. We now get regular requests from university students looking for unpaid work experience to help with their CVs. In fact, last year we had a highly qualified applicant looking for four weeks work experience to help him achieve a mid-life change of career! We tried not to feel (too) guilty as he churned out some pretty good jobs for us - for free. He did secure a job in the profession on the back of his time with us, so I think it was a good investment on both sides.
So this summer we're looking forward to the return of a university student who worked with us last summer. He left us able to use our accounts production software, had a good grasp of bank recs and basic double entry, so he should hit the ground running. We'll have to pay him this year to be fair, but at around £6 an hour it's not going to break the bank, it will help to cover the gaps due to annual leave which always occur at our busiest time of year - and we'll helping a young person towards a career.
It's a win-win, I definitely recommend it if you are large enough to have staff available to keep an eye on someone like this. Maybe not suited to a sole practitioner, but most other firms could do it.