One of our sixth formers, Izzy, begins her apprenticeship with accounting firm, PKF Francis Clark this August and here, she tells us how she managed to secure her apprenticeship and how she sees her future panning out.
Why did you choose to go for an apprenticeship over going to university?
It made more sense to me to put my skills into actual working practise. I was already unsure if I’d go on to university and having done my work experience at Francis Clark, it felt very natural to apply for an apprenticeship there. Francis Clark also suggested that they preferred people to do an apprenticeship because they can train them in the specialist software which a lot of the universities don’t have, so the skills and experiences I’d gain were more relevant and applicable to the actual job.
With my interest in Maths, it felt very comfortable for me to move into accountancy and other careers that I looked at felt more out of reach. My work experience was invaluable in helping me decide which career I’d move into. After doing some work experience at Francis Clark, and seeing what it was really like, I decided that I’d like to be an accountant. It seemed like a natural choice having a Maths A Level and continuing my studies with Further Maths in Year 13 and I had confidence in my abilities around numbers.
What was the application process like for your apprenticeship?
It was fairly lengthy and quite tough. I applied online initially and there were a few questions about my background and why I wanted to get into accountancy etc. We then had two tests, a Maths one and then a problem solving test ‘what would you do if…’. The next stage was a phone interview which was strange because you couldn’t see any faces obviously so you had to put yourself across purely by what you were saying. Then we had an Assessment Centre which involved three parts; we did group exercises with the other candidates where we looked at case studies and then presented it back to the group; an interview with the company directors/managers and then a timed written assessment which was a prioritisation exercise showing how I would prioritise work that came in, for example, a client emailing asking for something, the director asking for a task to be completed etc what would I deal with first?
Francis Clark were really helpful during the process because I’m dyslexic so they made adjustments prior to my assessments and interviews such as sending me material early and giving me extra time on some tasks. It’s worth asking if you need this and it certainly did not hinder my application by being honest about my challenges.
What does your apprenticeship involve?
The apprenticeship is three years long and I gain two qualifications; the Level 3 is 15 months long and the Level 4, which is equivalent to a Foundation Degree, is 18 months long. I will get paid a salary but all my training is free and I get the company benefits and commissions just like any other employee. Once I’ve completed the apprenticeship I can then choose to apply for a further apprenticeship which is a Level 7, equivalent to a Masters degree to be a Chartered Accountant. I’m not sure whether I’ll do this or not yet but I might do, we’ll see once I’ve finished my three years apprenticeship.
Any tips for anyone thinking of an apprenticeship?
It’s more like proper job hunting and job interviews than you think, I was competing with 24 year olds with degrees when I applied and was interviewed! You need to have stamina, be professional and remember to have charisma and put yourself across as best you can as it’s a business environment and you’re in direct competition with other candidates, not like an educational setting.
PKF Francis Clark has a global presence in 150 countries with 54 partners and over 800 staff with eight offices in the South West including the one that Izzy will work at in Poole.