Apprenticeships: helping you gain the exact skills that employers want

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If you’re beginning to think about how to take your first steps on the career ladder, it’s essential that you consider the best way to get into a career you want. To ensure that you’re able to be successful it’s helpful to know what employers are looking for.

AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) asked 1,000 employers what they look for when hiring a new member of staff. One of the main things they told us is that many of them look favourably on candidates who have done an apprenticeship scheme. Apprenticeships combine on-the-job practical work experience with study, which allows you to earn a salary and get valuable experience of work, as well as achieve a qualification at the same time.

Experience is vital to demonstrate to employers that you have the ability to perform the tasks they require; and depending on the role and position, this could be more useful for you then gaining a degree. 49 per cent of the employers AAT spoke to said that they would prefer to see experience from a relevant apprenticeship or previous position on a candidate’s CV, compared to only 24 per cent who would prefer to see a relevant degree qualification.

Of those who said they prioritise candidates who have relevant experience from an apprenticeship or previous job, 71 per cent said they prefer it because it shows that candidates have demonstrated their skills in a practical setting, and 62 per cent said it indicates they have a better understanding of the world of work.

The top ten factors employers also told us that they are looking for in candidates when recruiting are:

  • How they'd fit into the company culture

  • How much experience they have

  • Their general personality

  • How well qualified they are

  • A proactive attitude

  • Ability to work in a team

  • Showing a willingness to learn

  • Ability to self-manage and take initiative

  • Showing ambition

  • Communication skills


An apprenticeship can help you achieve all of these qualities, because you are in a real work environment where it is easier to pick up soft skills.

Ryehan Amir is an individual who decided to take the apprenticeship route. After leaving college he decided to begin an AAT-supported accountancy apprenticeship at a water treatment company called ESC Global Ltd. Ryehan had wanted to work in accountancy from a very young age, and saw apprenticeships as the best way to enter the financial sector.

Ryehan feels very supported by the team at his workplace; he can get time off to study and his AAT fees are fully funded by his employer. He recognises that doing an apprenticeship has helped improve the whole range of his skills, rather than just his accounting knowledge. Ryehan says: The best thing about AAT is that the curriculum teaches the fundamental skills that are desired by employers. AAT teaches me finance, ethics and Microsoft Excel skills - which help in my day to day work routine.”

Ryehan also values how doing an apprenticeship allows you to apply the skills you learn straight away at work. He adds: “My Finance Director recognises the need to knit theory with practice to ensure I get the benefits of the AAT learning experience. He ensures I don’t just complete a task but understand the task. He recognises I will make mistakes, but these are the learning experiences that make you a better professional.”

In addition to the skills Ryehan has gained, he also acknowledges that AAT has given him more confidence. He describes AAT as “a highly respectful qualification behind me, teaching me all the qualities needed to be a successful accountant.”

With an apprenticeship you get a professional qualification at the same time as picking up those all-important soft skills, because you will be in a work environment while learning. Apprenticeships are open to anyone who is aged 16 years or older, and are available in most sectors, so doing one can help you get into a wide range of different jobs. They are growing in popularity with employers, and could be the way to put you on the path to your dream career.

AAT offers apprenticeships in accounting, which can lead to jobs in accountancy and finance. Find out more at www.aat.org.uk/apprenticeships

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