• Name: Anna-Mae Wilkinson
  • Job Title: Accountancy Apprentice
  • Location: London
  • Areas of Specialism: Audit and Assurance, Business Advisory

Growing up I had every intention of attending university and studying some sort of (International) Business Management degree, until I applied, and received all my offers. It was at that point I turned to my parents and told them I didn’t want to go to university. I began looking for school leaver jobs – I didn’t think about an apprenticeship. Like a lot of people, I thought an apprenticeship would mean I would be making coffees and doing filing. I spoke to my careers advisor at school who really explained what apprenticeships are about. If I’m honest there were times, I questioned whether I had made the right decision, when I chose not to go to university especially after seeing some of my closest friends move away, 18 months later and I am so glad I made the decision to did. If I had to chose to go to university, I would’ve spent three, maybe four years studying, and then a further three years after studying towards the ICAEW’s professional qualification.

Tell us about yourself?

Before starting at Kreston Reeves, I worked part time in retail while studying Business, Sociology and Politics at A-Level. I started my Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB) in December 2019, and completed the qualification in November 2020 – CFAB is the first six exams of the ACA Qualification (Certificate Level). I have recently started my Professional Level studies and will hopefully be a fully qualified ICAEW Chartered Accountant in 2023. Alongside these courses, I have also attended a number of soft skills training courses, such as communicating ethically and customer orientation. Looking back to where I was when I first started, I have learnt so much already and grown as a person.

Why did you choose a job in this sector/profession?

I always loved numbers and was a maths over English kind of person, and the finance topics in A-Level business just confirmed this for me. It was my dad that suggested a role in accountancy to me, my instant response was “no way, you have to be super smart to do that”, I did however look at what the accountancy profession is all about and what the role entails and could instantly picture myself in this profession.

What skills are useful in this profession?

There are many skills that are useful in this profession, some of the key ones being: time management, good communication skills, computer literacy, attention to detail, resilience, and the ability to manage your own workload.

Do you have any advice for students wanting to enter the profession?

My biggest piece of advice would be do not be afraid to ask questions. When you are starting a new role especially as an apprentice always remember “there’s no such thing as a silly question” and I could not agree more. You are there to learn, so if there is something you’re not quite understanding, reach out and ask, I guarantee someone else has asked the exact same question when they were in the your position.

Another key piece of advice would be to remember that you are not expected to know everything on your first day. When I first started, I thought I was meant to know what to do and remember everything I was taught the first-time round. This is not the case at all, you are there to learn, so do not panic, if you find yourself asking a colleague the same thing more than once, they’re there to help and support your learning and development.

What is your role?

My role includes the preparation of year end accounts for both incorporated and unincorporated businesses. I am involved in Solicitors’ Client Money Examinations (SARs), and the preparation of personal and partnership tax returns. I also was given the responsible to train our new starter, when she joined the firm and we both assist our outsourcing department, in bookkeeping and client VAT Returns. I am also a member of the firm’s staff forum, where representatives from each office meet with the HR department, giving us an opportunity to share ideas, office updates and any issues that may have arisen on behalf of our constituents. Alongside this I have an active role in our offices’ CSR activities, where we aim to raise funds specifically for our office charity. In summary, my role covers a range of areas, and no two days or clients are the same in this profession

Is it a 9-5?

In a sense yes. I work Monday – Friday 8am -4:30pm, totally 37.5 hours a week. When I first started, I was working 9am – 5:30pm, but like a lot of students in the firm, I chose to change my hours, so I have more time in the evenings for studying. I had people saying to me before I started “why would you want to work 9-5, you’re only 18”, an apprenticeship isn’t just a 9-5, its so much more than that.

Why did you choose your training path?

The ACA qualification is one that is recognised globally, which offers well rounded knowledge, ensuring I gain practical experience alongside my exam modules, and ethics learning programme.

What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

I think my biggest challenge has been myself. When I first joined the firm, I put so much pressure on myself, thinking I was expected to know everything and ended up making myself more stressed. I ended up speaking to a couple of my colleagues, and they explained that I wasn’t expected to know everything, in fact I wasn’t expected to know anything, that’s why I’m there… to learn. Once I stopped stressing so much, I was able to focus on what was important which is developing my knowledge and skills.
It has been hard balancing full-time work and studying, no one likes studying, but having a timetable or some sort of routine really helps tackle the work that needs to be done. I also think it’s important to make sure you also take time for yourself, when you’re not studying and instead doing something you enjoy. Like anything, the ACA qualification is all about balance. I like to think of the qualification as short-term sacrifices for long-term gains.

To any current students questioning whether to go to university

It is completely your choice! You must think about what’s going to be best for you, where do you see yourself in 10 years? 5 years even? It’s important to know your options. Apprenticeships are so different to what a lot of people think they are (including me before I did my research) and can open you up to such a wide range of career opportunities.

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