School: All Hallows Catholic College
I completed my first year of AS levels at 16. However, after my first year in Sixth Form, I decided that I wanted to leave full time education to join a school leaver scheme. I joined the A-Team apprenticeship scheme with Cheshire East council and began studying the AAT qualification in accounting when I was 17.
Why did you choose to join a school leaver scheme?
I knew I wanted to work in accounting and I knew I wanted to get full time work experience, along with a recognised qualification that was valued by employers.
When I came across the school leaver scheme with Cheshire East Council, I knew this opportunity would give me insightful experience into my chosen field of work and would better my CV.
I was also attracted to the school leaver scheme because I would have the opportunity to fast track through the AAT qualification if I worked hard. Most people take three years to complete the qualification, but the fast track route would allow me to do the whole qualification in a year and a half which really appealed to me.
What was the application process like – any advice?
I heard about the scheme by doing a thorough internet search. The application process started with me submitting a CV though the website.
I felt quite confident with my CV and hoped it would reflect my personality and my hard working mentality.
I was fortunate enough to hear back a week later and was called for an interview. The interview was with two accountants in the finance department.
It was a formal interview and I was asked about my past including examples of where I have demonstrated excellence individually and within a team. They also tested my knowledge about what I knew about them as an organisation and a department.
A couple of weeks later, I heard I’d been successful in gaining the position. I was really happy with the outcome and felt I’d made the right decision. My parents and friends were very supportive.
My main piece of advice would be to do your homework beforehand so that you can be prepared for any tough interview questions.
What attracted you to your industry?
I have always enjoyed maths and business studies so accounting and finance seemed like a well matched career path for me.
Finance and accounting skills are essential – sitting at the heart of every business. I knew gaining qualifications and skills in this field would always ensure that I could work across many industry sectors. I also knew that by working hard, putting in a lot of effort and determination that I would have the opportunity to flourish.
What are your main duties?
Since joining the scheme in August 2011, I have worked in the schools finance team (this team is financially responsible for all the schools within the Cheshire East region including primary, secondary and special schools).
I worked with this department for a year and I monitored the school accounts, looking at expenditure and other financial aspects of the company. I gained knowledge and understanding of how to justify the accounts. I also offered advice and helped with budgeting accounts over a three year period.
I now work in the client finance team and work in accounts payable. This placement is based around social care and the billing and invoicing for different scenarios of this care.
It’s quite different to my previous placement but really enjoyable purely because it’s a challenge. There are many grey areas so I always have to think on my feet.
I am also on the last level of the AAT qualification (level 4) and what I’m learning in the classroom, I’m applying directly in the workplace.
What challenges have you come across and how did you overcome them?
A big challenge for me at the beginning was the balance between working life and studying as well as trying to maintain a social life.
I work a five day week and I attend night school at SKS academy two nights a week for three hours. I’ve got into a routine now, but this was certainly a struggle at the start.
Do you have any advice for someone seeking to join a school leaver scheme?
You must be passionate about your chosen career before thinking about a joining a school leaver scheme. School leaver schemes can be hard work and you have be dedicated and committed to your studies and your day-to-day work.
I have enjoyed every minute of my school leaver scheme but I’ve worked really hard – putting in more than 100%. I have benefitted from support and recognition from my employer and colleagues and after my first year as an apprentice I received the ‘A-team Apprentice of the Year’ award. This was a big achievement for me and shows that all my hard work has paid off and gives me the incentive to keep going!