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Coming from a grammar school sixth form college, Katie felt pushed towards taking the university route, but decided against it and pursued an apprenticeship. She is currently completing the AAT Accounting Qualification whilst working four days a week at Kirk Newsholme Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors in Leeds.

Katie shares her tips on choosing the right career path, attending an interview and getting a job for school leavers wanting to work in finance and accountancy.

1. Making a decision

Like many young people, I felt pushed towards university as the next step in my education following A levels. It wasn’t until I asked my careers adviser about other options that I heard about apprenticeships. I thought they were for more ‘practical’ careers such as building and hairdressing but I soon realised I was very wrong when I got in touch with the director at a local accountancy firm to discuss my options.

 Top tip: Do your research. School leaver schemes are more common than you think and are available in professional jobs and careers. Speak to professionals in the industry that you want to work in and find out how they got on the career ladder – and how you can too.


2. Preparing for the interview

Once I had spoken to my local firm Kirk Newsholme, I applied for and got an interview for an accounting apprenticeship. It was very nerve-racking to say the least. I was asked questions about the work experience I had previously done, as well as the specific role that I was interested in and why.

I had previously worked in a restaurant and in my stepdad’s butchers, which gave me a basic understanding of running a business. I used these examples to demonstrate my communication skills, basic numerical skills and how I have learned to deal with customers.

I was pleased to find that the interview was just as much an opportunity for me to learn about the business as it was for them to learn about me. I was told that the apprenticeship involved practical learning by studying AAT at BPP one day a week, offering a qualification and work experience.

 Top tip: If you don’t have previous professional work experience, think of activities you did at school or part-time jobs to demonstrate your skills and qualities e.g. leadership, teamwork, creative thinking and problem solving. Being prepared with examples will make you more relaxed and will help you think clearly.


3. Knowing what employers want

Employers are looking for students who are academically strong and who have an interest in accountancy and how a business is run. They don’t expect you to have the knowledge to do the job (yet), but they do look for other skills, like basic numeracy, literacy and communication.

As an accountancy entrant, you’re likely to be working alongside those who went to university as well as other school leavers and apprentices. I haven’t seen any differences in how they are treated, there are obviously differences in background knowledge but both face the same challenges of adapting to a workplace environment.

 Top tip: Be the ‘yes man’. Grasp every opportunity that presents itself, even if it’s a job or task that seems quite basic. You’ll soon become known for your enthusiasm and become well-regarded as someone who is willing to learn and develop.

About the Author

  • Name: Katie Wilkinson

Katie Wilkinson is a 20 year old trainee accountant at Kirk Newsholme Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers in Leeds.

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