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Keeping new apprentice busy and happy

How do you keep an apprentice busy and happy when there isn't always work to do?

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I have my first apprentice starting on Monday. She is just 18 and based at the local college ans is studying for her AAT qualification.

Will be paying £5.60 per hour and she will do 3 days a week with us and a day at college (which we pay for) to make up the 30 hours required.

We are still a relatively small but growing practice and I know there will be times when there is not enough work to keep her busy so I am looking for creative ideas to ensure she still enjoys things when there isn't much accounting/bookkeeping work to do.

Certainly doing some marketing work (creating data bases of small local businesses and mailshotting them) seems a useful task in such situations but I wonder if anyone has other suggestions that may help to ensure boredom does not become an issue?

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By andy.partridge
06th Sep 2017 13:46

If you try to make everything new and exciting you are creating an illusion of what working life is about. Furthermore, if your apprentice is always being challenged that can be both exhausting and stressful.

What to you might seem like drudgery could be something within her comfort zone that she will enjoy. It's a case of striking a balance and communicating needs and expectations.

There is always work to do here, even when it has nothing directly to do with client accounts. That includes manual and electronic filing, but also updating databases etc. If you are taking on new practice management software for example or devising better templates for things, your apprentice may well have better inputting skills and know their way around Excel or Word very well.

There might be webinars to attend to instruct and give the day some light and shade.

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By AnnAccountant
06th Sep 2017 14:46

Print columns of random numbers off Excel and ask her to cast them?

Ask her to count the (pot) plants so they can go in the P&M part of the balance sheet.

That's how people used to keep trainees busy at times.

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By james_hampton
06th Sep 2017 15:01

When I was training, I used to somewhat enjoy a friday afternoon scanning to cool down if I had had lots of harder stuff. Also it was good to take ownership of something (The AML database in my case). I was told to always bring in my books in case there wasn't much to do (rarely).

The other thing that worked quite well, was I was told to replicate putting a set of accounts together for a job from scratch for a job already done. It was good to try, make a mistake then see what the figure should have been and work out why. Learnt far more from making mistakes and learning from them than anything else as a student.

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By SteLacca
06th Sep 2017 15:12

Do you subscribe to any periodicals (Taxation, etc.) which you can give her to read. Despite the subject matter, I kinda like Taxation for putting an interesting spin on most stuff, and occasionally leads me to a tribunal judgement which I'll then read in full.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
06th Sep 2017 15:43

I like James's suggestion.

Have go yourself, and them 'mark your homework' perhaps with half an hour of management support to explain some "whys" or indeed when you have found something that wasn't picked up at the time would be great training.

They will also appreciate being able to do some of their study in the office if you are quiet - which a good employee will repay when you are up against it.

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By soundadvice
06th Sep 2017 15:54

Already some really helpful ideas. Many many thanks

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Caroline
By accountantccole
06th Sep 2017 15:55

Our apprentice started at the beginning of August. He has done online bookkeeping courses, VAT courses (part of our SWAT membership), he's backtracked and looked through parts of the training again when things get quiet.
We have systems for everything, if you don't already have systems documents, get the apprentice to start producing them for what they are doing on a daily basis, you'll then have these to fall back on if you need to train someone new. It'll also show whether they have actually taken in what they have been taught.
Let them shadow people to see what they do too.
Tea - make sure you always have a cup of tea!

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By marks
06th Sep 2017 21:27

We are in a similar situation.

Taken on our first trainee recently and they are going through the 5 years ICAS programme having come straight from school. They are bright in that they got 5 As in their highers but they didnt do accounting at school so havent come with any double entry bookkeeping knowledge.

They have went on the ICAS bookkeeping course but the staff are having difficulty training her given their lack of accounting and double entry knowledge.

We have a lot of jobs that are on Xero and arent your traditional analyse out bank statement jobs.

We are finding that to get the foundations in place we are getting her to go back to basics by analysing out the bank, ticking off transactions to bank statement, identify differences, prepare journals to bring in source records, and then bring in adjustments to prepare accounts.

Not how we would normally do the job as we would normally just whack it into Xero and analyse through that.

Also although we are a small practice with relative straightforward client accounts and tax returns she is only really ready to start working on the simple ones and just really need to wait until they come in.

So have a choice of whether to do that and give her other stuff to do eg online webinars, social media marketing, blog writing for website, other admin stuff or give her bits and pieces of bigger jobs.

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By michaelbeaver
07th Sep 2017 13:49

I've got a trainee that started in December last year, just before the January From Hell.

Needless to say by the end of January he was very good at simple SA returns. He's in his final year of AAT.

When things are quiet I give him some ATT training books that we have on SA and CT and get him to do a chapter, and summarise it for me and what he's learned, and what isn't clear or doesn't make sense so he learns it even better.

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By birdman
08th Sep 2017 10:16

If she doesn't get used to the boredom now, how's she going to cope with the next 40-odd years?
When I was training, the books were kept in pigeonholes along a wall. A sellotape ball and a points system was all me and my fellow trainee needed for a Friday afternoon....

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Replying to birdman:
By Husbandofstinky
08th Sep 2017 12:30

birdman wrote:

If she doesn't get used to the boredom now, how's she going to cope with the next 40-odd years?

You are not wrong there (although still some way to go here).

I would focus on the basics still even if its XYZ ltd made up stuff or just a re run of what's already done and dusted (compare the two - analytical review etc). Once the trainee has mastered that the rest will follow. Obviously throw other stuff in there to break it up.

Over the years I have come across academic wonder kids with accountancy degrees who couldn't even throw a TB together. Waste of practice space. Work form the ground up at small practice level imo.

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By ClaireB
08th Sep 2017 11:56

Before our apprentice arrived I had assumed that all 18 year olds were excel whizzes by dint of their age. However, he just about knew the basics. So my suggestion is to find out how proficient she is on the systems side of things and then sign her up to some online courses which she can do in the downtimes.

I also agree with getting her stuck into some fairly boring detailed analysis where she can practise attention to detail (which is a skill she might not have learnt yet).

Btw, our apprentice has turned out to be an excellent addition to the company.

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