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Haines Watts launched its accounting apprenticeship programme two years ago as part of its strategy to future-proof the business’s services and enhance recruitment. Along the way, it has been able to explore, and dispel, some of the misgivings often cited by SMEs for avoiding such schemes. In this blog, we hear about apprenticeships experiences from three Haines Watts representatives.

The right structure – Gary Woodhall, Head of Audit

60%  of apprentices stay on with their companies after their apprenticeships expire. When the accounting apprenticeship programme began at our Northampton office, there were some early stumbling blocks. a notable example was that our internal team and our apprenticeship training providers needed to establish the right structure for our apprentices, it was a case of us all learning on the job. As a result, a Haines Watts team was charged with learning lessons of their own and developing a scheme with a structure that was better suited to the longer-terms goals and needs of its trainees and the business. 

Targeted learning – Karen Dowse, Resourcing Executive

The investment has already paid dividends, as Haines Watts has now seen a substantial increase in the number of applicants looking to begin their career in accountancy. Keeping recruits engaged and motivated is a vital part of any scheme – apprentices appreciate that the programme is geared towards their own learning and development, which works to provide them a sustainable route into their chosen profession. 

There is also now a focus on identifying apprentices unique attributes. During our recruitment process, we assess applicants’ technical ability, personality and business compatibility. This helps us understand not just their skills, but where they’ll be most effective and most valuable in our business.

Breaking down the myths

We’ve managed to dispel some of the misgivings you tend to hear from business owners, and build a bank of evidence to show the value of this form of recruitment . For instance, many people think apprentices needed to be between 16 and 18 years of age, but that isn’t true. In fact, while apprentices do need to be the minimum age of 16, there is no upper age limit. We have many experienced professionals exploring new career paths and considering qualification through an apprentice pathway.

While apprenticeships are often associated with industrial sectors, they can be an appropriate choice for all sorts of businesses, in any industry. There is also flexibility around how long the apprenticeship runs for – most of our apprentice learning is undertaken in 15 month blocks, which we find gives the valuable split of study, training and working in business. 

And these training apprenticeship programmes also aren’t as costly as some think. There’s a common misconception among SME owners that they can’t afford to take on an apprentice but if you’re a non-levy payer – which in England means your pay bill is under £3 million per year – you only pay 10% of the training costs. It’s an attractive opportunity. 

Apprentice accessibility – Rob de Main, Head of Talent & Resourcing

Haines Watts has recorded a marked uptake in accounting apprenticeship applications – indicating that fine-tuning and a supportive structure go a long way. Company culture can be immensely beneficial. Building a brand through social exchange helps empower your apprentices – and promotes your business to boot. 

An attractive workplace – Karen & Gary

Identifying applicant incentives is the first step to making the most of apprenticeships – and small businesses have plenty to offer. Apprentices want to work in a company where they are known and their work has an impact. SMEs are ideally placed to provide that high quality workplace experience. Its important that trust develops and that they are able to gain experience and autonomy quickly. There’s a big benefit in winning the loyalty of your new talent early on. Plotting out the onboarding process with an increasing salary can motivate them even further. 

Accounting Apprenticeship Programmes – are you missing out?

An open-minded approach to apprenticeships is important in gaining maximum benefits for both the business and the trainee. To continue developing the accounting apprenticeship programme this year is very exciting. Pushing past some major misconceptions, we’ve learnt that any business which overlooks apprenticeships is missing out on opportunities. 

Interested in an accounting apprenticeship programme? Contact your local Haines Watts office.

Find and contact your local Haines Watts office

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