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Apprenticeship campaign: Debt-free way to qualifications

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: February 26, 2014

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AFTER studying 13 GCSEs and three A levels at Ilfracombe Arts College, Michael O’Connell stacked shelves in a supermarket while he considered his options.

With university fees at £9,000 a year and not wanting £27,000 of debt, he saw an advert for an apprentice finance assistant with North Devon Homes.

Michael’s aptitude for numbers had been apparent at school when a teacher suggested accountancy as a career option.

“It appealed to me because it seemed like a good opportunity to do something different as I never considered going to university,” said Michael. “I saw it as a chance to get a qualification and great work experience all at once.”

Michael submitted a handwritten application and attended a testing session dressed smartly in a suit. He passed, reached the shortlist and was offered the position.

Michael is now one-and-a-half years through his three-year apprenticeship taken through AAT, the professional body for Accounting Technicians, with Petroc as the training provider.

“I’ve got access to study support on the AAT website, plus there’s a helpline and forums where I can leave a question and qualified people can answer. AAT send me a letter every month and they have given me a calendar of signature dates.

“I’m doing basic T accounts, debits and credits, and accounts preparation for businesses and sole traders. I really like the business side of things here. I get to see a broad vision of business in general.

“At the moment, I’m doing day-to-day stuff: learning the systems, registering supplier invoices and generating invoices. I’m also learning how to reconcile control accounts and update asset registers. So if in five or ten years’ time I want to run my own business I would know how a business operates.

“I would say to others who aren’t sure about doing an apprenticeship, don’t let the pay scare you off. An apprenticeship may not offer a wage I can live on by myself yet - I can’t afford my own flat - but I can support myself. At the moment I’m taking driving lessons and paying for them myself. I can get a car and afford to run it because I’ve got this income.

“I’ve learned how to look after myself. Being in a workplace helps you grow up straightaway. It still feels strange, thinking of myself as an accountant, but I’m really happy about it.”

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