Accounting Apprentice, Oliver Woodberry, has provided this case study about his apprenticeship experience.
What led you to enrol on an apprenticeship?
My aim when leaving college was to become a chartered accountant after studying Accounting at A Level and I was pointed in the direction of apprenticeships by the college careers advisor and my Accounts teacher. They encouraged me to apply for the larger accounting recruitment companies' apprenticeship programmes, as oppose to looking at going to university for qualifications. I was never really interested in university anyway and knew I would have found it difficult to potentially move away from home and deal with the debts that come along with university in the future. So that, along with a desire to study the AAT qualifications and gain vital skills in the workplace, made apprenticeships a very easy choice for me.
What does your role as an apprentice entail?
My week at Pinsent Masons begins with my study day at the University of Law. This time is put aside so myself and the firms' other accounts apprentices can focus on our AAT studies and portfolio work. We are regularly monitored by our Damar trainer who always ensures that we are making maximum progress in the workplace and with our studies.
A positive with the Pinsent Masons apprenticeship programme is the exposure that all apprentices have to the firms' finance department. Throughout the programme so far, I have been exposed to the Accounts Payable, Travel and Expenses and the Billing teams within finance, with there being further opportunity later on in the programme to gain experience in Credit Control. I am also fortunate to have the opportunity to gain an insight into the Cashier and Financial reporting teams in my two-year programme.
I began with the accounts payable team where the main goal of the team is to process invoices on to the system, as accurately and efficiently as possible so the firm can pay their suppliers. The team processes both client related and internal operations related invoices. My role also included direct debit payments, the reconciliation of supplier statements of accounts and handling the queries of both internal and external stakeholders of the firm relating to the team.
After my first 7 months with accounts payable, my week was then divided between the accounts payable and travel and expenses teams. My duties were to oversee and manage the process of the firm’s courier invoices, which involved sending them off for approval and processing these on to the system. I was also given an insight into uploading air fees to assist members of the team.
I have recently moved over to the firms' billing team, who are responsible for collating, processing and dispatching invoices that are sent to the firms' clients. At this moment in time I have been trained how to write off fees that are not being charged to clients, transfer misallocated time and disbursement entries and the processing of basic bills to be forwarded to clients.
What have you enjoyed most about your apprenticeship?
I have enjoyed the friendly work environment at Pinsent Masons the most. Having started with Pinsent Masons after a bad experience in another placement, the first thing I noticed was the kindness of other people and the support that people were willing to give me so that I could reach my maximum potential. The guidance from the team members working around me gave me confidence to try out new things even if I was unsure or reluctant to do them and they have enabled me to settle into my role with ease, so much so that my first year at the firm has flown by in what feels like a couple of months! Looking back to when I first started with the firm, my confidence has drastically grown, and I have a greater can-do attitude in times where I am struggling. The firm holds regular social events in and outside the office which gives me a chance to speak to other colleagues on an informal basis and these create a comfortable environment that makes me enjoy coming to work.
What has been a personal highlight of your apprenticeship?
A personal highlight of the apprenticeship has been the growth in my confidence when communicating with people, especially on the telephone. I used to be scared of even logging onto my phone when I started with Pinsent Masons and I was worried that what I was saying to other people would be incorrect. However, over a short period of time, I used the phone more and more and now I am fully confident in answering queries and discussing matters with customers.
Have you got any advice for school leavers looking for the right career path?
My advice would be to do what you enjoy and put yourself first, don't let other people dictate your decisions if you have your aspirations set. If you're looking at going to college before going into work/apprenticeships/university, do your research on your chosen path and do subjects that relate to your chosen career and that you enjoy. This should help you get grades required to achieve your goals. However, if college or university isn't for you or your chosen career path, look at apprenticeship websites and get your name and CV about as much as you can. There are so many options and careers for you to explore and so many people that are willing to help you, so make the most of them whilst you can!
I would also say don't put all of your eggs in one basket. Aspiring to be an accountant, I started off in a small accountants firm but it was something that I didn’t enjoy and I never had the chance to even start my course. Now I'm doing the same qualifications, surrounded by positive people who prioritise your progress over their own, but in the last place I thought I'd be when I left college – a Law Firm!