Why and how to work with schools
As schools up and down the country gear up for work experience placements and students prepare for life after their final exams, Della Hudson sets out why working with your local schools is good for your accountancy practice.
I see many good reasons for working with schools located near to your accountancy practice. You can:
- give something back to the community
- influence the next generation of accountants and entrepreneurs
- help teachers to understand what the business community needs when recruiting their pupils; and
- raise awareness of your business within the community, as all those pupils have parents, some of whom will be local businesses.
It is also a good opportunity for you to spot your next employee or trainee. Also it is hard for the school to say no to a dedicated parent teacher association (PTA) member, if you ask to get involved.
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How to help
As a local employer you can help in many ways, such as:
- provide work experience
- give careers talks
- take part in careers fairs
- conduct mock interviews
I’ve never pursued the governor route as I struggle with committees. Having run my own business with a team of people all with a can-do attitude I find it hard to slow down to normal pace. I also disliked the PTA route where the treasurer role consisted of many hours counting and sorting coins after school fairs (record was five hours because every stall wanted to know how much “profit” they made.
A long game
When helping schools you are in a position to both mould what they do in order to generate more useful employees in the future, and also to talent spot individuals whom you might wish to employ yourself. As a parent I’m keen to think that others, in turn, will do this for my children.
The things that my accountancy practice has done include:
Work experience: You will need to have a risk assessment for young people, and employee liability insurance, but your local council will help with the formalities.
We provided a mixture of work projects requiring a little learning and then minimal supervision, as well as taking our students along to a couple of networking events and client meetings. Do get permission from the event organiser and your client beforehand!
We arranged for all students to sign our confidentiality contract. Whilst not enforceable in law it served as a reminder to them of the importance of confidentiality. Work experience can also act as an extended interview and we found one of our apprentices this way.
Careers fairs: We prepared for these as for any business or trade fair. There is no charge to exhibit and you have the opportunity to talk to lots of potential recruits about accountancy or starting a business in general. Most are accompanied by their parents, who may be business owners themselves, so it helps to increase your profile in the wider community. We provided goody bags with our name on that we hope will remind others of our practice name for a while longer
Careers talks: I love what I do, and I want to get this across to youngsters who think that accountancy is only about numbers. I like to share my passion about how we use technology and help people. However, public speaking is not for everybody.
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Mock interviews: These usually follow a prescribed pattern from the school, which may or may not relate to how you recruit and interview in your own business. Be prepared to follow the school rules!
Personally, I love working with local schools as it allows us to feed something back into the local community. It also has potential benefits of producing school leavers that we want to employ and increasing our profile in the local area.
In the next article in this series, we’ll take a look at apprentices and explain why it is good for your business.
Do you work with schools? How has taking your expertise out into the community helped your practice?
Della Hudson was part of the class of 2009. She built up Hudson Business Accountants and Advisers from her kitchen table to a small team of flexible workers with independent premises in Nailsea, near Bristol. The firm ran regular Money Matters seminars and other training and webinars. Della sold the firm in 2017 in order to focus on the...