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.”