Trainees in the accountancy profession

September 20th, 2010

At this time of year, amongst the current topics of conversation in accountancy firms, as with other industries, is the quality of new students. Many are saying that, despite the ever-increasing number of students with degrees and the ever-increasing grades at A level and degree level, the graduates aren’t “any better than previous years”. More and more people are applying for roles – accountancy firms report 10s of applications for every new role, far more than 5 or 10 years ago.

Which qualifications do they then study for?

Whilst the large firms were renown for taking on graduates and put them through ICAEW* training, this has also changed. More firms are using ACCA* as a route to qualification and some ICAS*. In addition, there has been a growing trend to take on school leavers, usually post-A levels, rather than GCSE, as trainee accountants to take the AAT* exams with some going on to study another qualification afterwards. Larger firms have, for many years, taken students straight into their tax departments, most of whom study ATT* followed, most likely, by CTA*. And, yes, there are many other qualifications within the accountancy industry and a number of other qualifications within specific specialisms.

How do they decide?

Many employers use psychometric tests when taking on new staff and, with new students, they often test core English and Maths skills and they are finding that the number of students who pass these tests is not going up.

So how do they decide who to take on? Whether you like it or not, when looking at a degree, the employer will look at the topic and the institution. There are universities with long-standing reputations for consistently producing graduates with far higher success rates than their competitors. The employers know which universities are best for them.

However objective you aim to make a recruitment process, when an employer is faced with a number of students with almost exactly the same qualifications, they will want to look at whether or not they “fit in”. They will ask about other skills – communication, teamwork, leadership, organisation and so on – and they will take note of the answers … and the way they are answered, and the way the interviewee interacts with them and they will make a judgement.

Who is most likely to succeed?

A couple of thoughts …

  • Relevant graduates, ie those with accountancy and business degrees, going on to study an accountancy qualification consistently have a lower pass rate than non-relevant graduates
  • School leavers, including those with good A levels to get to University, do less well throughout the qualifications, unless they take an interim qualification first

 What else is different?

Another growing trend is the increase in a split intake with a proportion of new students starting in January, instead of all of them in September.

What’s your experience?

If you work in a business which takes graduates and school leavers for their first job, what have you noticed? How does the route for trainees differ in other industries? If you are just starting your first job, what helped you get the offer? What would you advise those starting to look for places next year?

*And the qualifications …
ICAEW – Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
ACCA – Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
ICAS – Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland
AAT – Association of Accounting Technicians
ATT – Association of Tax Technicians
CTA – Chartered Institute of Taxation
In addition:
CIMA – Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
CIPFA – Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy

What now?

If you would like to discuss this article or the impact on your learning and development, contact Sue Cohen by phone or email, as you prefer:

E: sue@suecohen.co.uk
M: 07971 400653
T: 020 8953 6477

One Response to “Trainees in the accountancy profession”

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