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Alternative route to professional accountancy career brings employers and students ‘much more’

Earn as you learn on an innovative and practical route to a career in accountancy

Employers, guidance counsellors, Leaving Cert students and their parents are happy to learn of Accounting Technicians Ireland’s new Accounting Technician Apprenticeship, as it gains increased coverage in the media. The apprenticeship offers young school-leavers an alternative route to professional accountancy, and will be introduced in the Republic of Ireland in September this year.

“Years ago, young people would have done their articles in accountancy firms and they would have studied in the evening, to become accountants,” Gillian Doherty, COO of Accounting Technicians Ireland, told Donal O’Donovan on Newstalk Breakfast this morning.

“The modern apprenticeship is much more than that. You’ve time off work to go to class, you have college and workplace mentors, and you earn while you learn.”

Apprenticeship Newstalk AudioAccounting Technicians Ireland launched a similar programme in Northern Ireland in 2014, and it proved so successful among employers, colleges and students that the programme was expanded to six colleges in the North last year. Now, students on the initial intake are preparing to sit their final exams, and they will graduate as Accounting Technicians in the Autumn. “They may then progress on to another three years’ study in order to graduate as Chartered Accountants,” Ms Doherty said.

Glowing evaluation

Today, employers such as Deloitte, BDO, Grant Thornton and many others in the North have taken on apprentices through Accounting Technicians Ireland. “We’ve 58 employers already across not-for-profits, large firms, and small and medium practice and all have given us glowing evaluation in the first round of quality assurance in January,” Ms Doherty said. Employers in the Republic seem just as eager to sign up.

“We certainly have found a very strong endorsement from employers around the country already, we have found that in terms of benefits, employers are very keen to have employee retention, and one of the things an apprenticeship brings is an increase in employee retention, which really results in a more productive and positive workplace, also creates diversification in the workplace, an apprentice can also be trained up in specific job requirements, so employers can effectively grow their own, mould apprentices to the business,” Ms Doherty told Newstalk listeners.

Earn as you learn

Training fees are fully funded by the State. While it’s not costing the employer to have the apprentice on the job for their training, they “still need to pay a minimum wage”, Ms Doherty said. This is good news for students, who can embark on a professional qualification straight from school where training is fully funded, and they also earn as they learn.

“They will go to college one day a week, and then, the remaining four days they’ll be in the workplace. They will have three weeks of study leave, and they will have study supports like textbooks and revision built into the programme. They have a workplace mentor and a college mentor so the link between the employer and the college is key to making sure the programme works.”

Moreover, robust safeguards are in place to ensure the student’s wellbeing in both the workplace and the classroom. As a national statutory programme, all the rules and regulations surrounding protection of the learner, protection of the employee, all are state-regulated.

While eligibility requirements are currently being finalised, applicants should have a good Leaving Cert to qualify. The programme is primarily aimed at providing school-leavers with an alternative route to a professional career in accounting, but “existing employees may also apply in the case of a transfer into a new role”, Ms Doherty said.