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Use apprenticeships to help solve the skills gap

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At a time when recruitment remains a cause for concern in the accounting profession and the skills gap needs to be bridged, Ryan Hill and James Morley of First Intuition – speaking at the Festival of Accounting & Bookkeeping – look at why apprenticeships may be the right route to take.

14th Mar 2024
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The skills gap in the accounting profession is no secret. It remains a concern for many, with the ongoing conversation being why that is and how to bridge it.

Speaking at the Festival of Accounting & Bookkeeping, James Morley of First Intuition recognised that recruitment right now is “really hard” and believes having apprenticeships as a pathway gives employers “another channel in what is a challenging market”.

“It also gives you a digital pathway to tighten that skills gap – one which I’m sure we’ve all experienced.

“Anyone who’s tried to recruit in the past 12 months knows there is a growing skills gap in our industry. Apprenticeships give you a chance to shape the training and close that gap based on your needs, not based on the wider industry or aggregate needs.”

Retention on the rise

Ryan Hill – a director at First Intuition – quoted a National Apprenticeship Service report that shows 69% of companies have reported improved employee retention through apprenticeships and 90% of apprentices stay with their employer after completing the apprenticeship.

Morley noted that a “big part of keeping somebody in the business, especially if they’re in the early stages of their career, is making them feel like you’re investing in their training and development.

“Apprenticeships are a great way to do that because they get the qualification, they get the additional skills training, they get the coaching, they get the wider support mentoring from both within the organisation and from your training provider as well.”

Levelled the playing field

He added that apprenticeships “really levelled the playing field”.

“If you’re trying to attract and retain staff against organisations that have large central training and development departments that can run big internal training programmes, sometimes that can put you at a disadvantage if you don’t have that sort of infrastructure.

“Apprenticeships have really level that playing field. The large employer’s offering time out of the business to study? So are we. They’re offering you an internal skills development programme? So are we. They’re offering you coaching and mentoring? So are we.

“Apprenticeships are a gateway to support a lot of that. So from a retention point of view, it takes that part of the conversation off the table.”

Effort and reward

When discussing the myths of apprenticeships, Hill did conceded that “there is a fair bit of paperwork” before telling the audience “you’re pretty well armed for paperwork, being accountants”.

He also noted that there would be a “fair bit of support” but added that they “should be an exciting thing to do”.

“Maybe we’re not all people that can support and allow someone to grow and help them with their mistakes. And sometimes I’m sure some of us can get more frustrated, so we’re not all set out to train new accountants to be a mentor to them. I understand that.

“This is a tough industry. Do you remember when you were studying and doing your exams, and there was a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat, thinking ‘I haven’t got a clue what’s going on’? They get that as well.

“Yes, there is time when we need to help them develop and grow, but the benefits of seeing that when they suddenly flourish at the end and they’re leading projects on their own – it should be something that’s incredibly rewarding.”

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