National Apprenticeship Week: Q&A with Oliver Barker

07 February 2023

National Apprenticeship Week: Q&A with Oliver Barker

This week is National Apprenticeship Week – celebrating all of the achievements and positive impact of apprentices across the UK. We sat down with apprentices across the Northern Haines Watts network, to spotlight their career journeys so far.

The apprenticeship route is both popular and highly supported at Haines Watts, we know first-hand how invaluable and rewarding it is for all the school-leavers who have joined, choosing both work and study over university.

We’re really proud of our apprentices and the stories they have to tell of their career with us so far. That’s why throughout National Apprenticeship Week, we hear from a different team member across the North each day, to discuss everything from why they chose their career pathway, to progression and their proudest achievements to date.

Today, we hear from Oliver Barker who joined Haines Watts Leeds office in 2019, and has since completed his level 4 AAT exams whilst forming strong relationships with his colleagues and local businesses.


Could you tell us a bit about your career journey so far?

I had Initially intended on spending the first years after school in university, but after working in the summer after my first year, I decided an apprenticeship was for me. Haines Watts was one of a few apprenticeships I was offered and they stood out above the crowd when looking at the potential progression I could gain working there. While being at Haines Watts I have progressed from someone with very little knowledge in my career to a capable accountant thanks to the support I receive at work and my parallel studies. So far, I’ve achieved my level 4 AAT and will be soon progressing onto further studies.


Why was an apprenticeship the right route for you?

I am much more suited in a working environment and working with clients and peers. I’ve always been very active and outgoing and always aspire to be better than I am at the present. Therefore, it was the perfect choice for me. I’m interacting with new people, working with my peers to overcome new challenges every day and learning new skills alongside everything to aid my progression. Everyone is very encouraging, and hard work is always acknowledged in the office as well as for passing exams.


Could you give us some highs and lows of your apprenticeship?

Highs and lows will always stem from how exams go. It was great to celebrate successes in exams, especially receiving my final AAT exam result and achieving the qualification. A low point for me was also from a negative exam result, however, I was able to sit down with my managing partner and come up with a plan to ensure I felt confident for the next time I sit the exam. He supported me throughout this low point and in the end, it worked out.


What drew you to Haines Watts and why is it the right fit for you?

Haines Watts stood out for me for a couple of reasons. The Leeds branch has a Managing Partner looking to make an impact which was exciting to me. Also, I had seen that Haines Watts focused on Local businesses rather than large corporations. I thought this would allow for closer relationships with clients as I would get the chance to work with them more closely than in other firms.


Do you feel like you have any particular career role models and if so, why?

My career roles models will always be my peers. I started the apprenticeship scheme when I was over 2 years younger than any of my colleagues and I was not yet embedded into a full working life. As a result, I was very eager to learn. I looked up to my peers who were knowledgeable and professional and knew I had a lot to learn from them as well as forming friendships. I’ve seen people I work with progress and I want to be like them.


What kind of skills have you learnt during your apprenticeship that you feel you can apply to your role and day to day life?

I have learnt some work-based skills such as using different technologies and pieces of software which I will be able to pass onto any accounting role I take on in the future. These are skills I continue to learn throughout my apprenticeship. I have learnt how to be professional in meetings and emails, there had been a couple of times in my work where these parts of my job had been great from my part but my peers have helped me to improve in these aspects. Now I consider my professionalism to be a strength. This is a skill for life, and I can take it into any role in the future.


What is your favourite part of your role?

My favourite part of my role is the opportunity to visit many different types of companies and work with many different people. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out the best way to communicate and work with each one. I have looked at my superiors and colleagues to see how they do so and use their techniques alongside my own ideas to benefit both myself and client.


What kind of businesses do you work with?

We mainly work with small to medium companies in many different industries such like manufacturing, food and motor services to name a few. Previously I worked more closely with individuals, however I have made the move over to businesses instead. I have enjoyed working with all clients, big and small.