Harriet is three months into an AAT accounting apprenticeship at PKF Francis Clark. This is how it’s going…
I arrived at the office on my first day of my AAT apprenticeship and there were lots of other new starters. I felt less nervous not being the only one. The rest of the day they eased us in gently with talks and videos.
The next day I was off to a two-day induction course at the University of Exeter. This was very reassuring because I got to meet the other new starters from across the firm. There were around 60 of us, doing a few different types of apprenticeships but otherwise all in the same boat.
We did team building exercises, there were practical sessions and presentations with people from all areas of the business, and we talked directly to the CEO and other senior leaders. There was an overnight stay with a BBQ and games which was great for meeting people. I left feeling motivated and well prepared to get into my new job.
Over the next three weeks there were more introductory courses. You do different courses depending on what team you’re in. I’m in audit so I did the intro to audit course. We learnt what audit is and how to use the audit software. I did a bookkeeping course too.
I felt the initial weeks of my AAT apprenticeship set me up really well, that I wouldn’t be jumping into the deep end. I also got to see our different office locations, I’m based in Plymouth but I visited our Exeter and Truro teams too.
I go to college once a week, it’s local to me in Plymouth. All the first year AAT apprentices in the Plymouth team go together. AAT trainees in our other locations go to colleges that are near to them.
Before I started college, I had an intro call with my tutor. She told me what to expect on the AAT apprenticeship course. You go to college for one day each week but it’s self-study and you work at your own pace.
On college days, a tutor is always there in the room ready to help. You just ask them any questions – and I’ve asked a lot of questions! I got a great result in my first AAT exam, so the tutors really do help.
You have up to 18 months to complete AAT level 3 and can take the exams whenever you feel ready. You study at your own pace and then book the exam when you’re ready for it. This means you’ve got a good chance doing well in the exams.
I am enjoying going to college with my colleagues. You already know some people, so that removes the nervous feeling. We hang out at lunch and we help each other out a lot with the work too.
Most of the learning in an AAT apprenticeship happens on-the-job. The people here are so helpful. I don’t feel nervous about asking questions and they encourage you to talk to them about what you’re doing.
I’m helped by colleagues and managers, and I get to work with different teams on different jobs, so I’m learning from lots of people. I go out on site to do audits where I’m speaking to clients, which develops my skills in relationship building. That’s important because building strong client relationships is crucial to what we do. You’ve got to be good with people to succeed in this job.
During my first audit I was given the opportunity to speak with a client, so that I’d learn quickly. It’s already starting to feel a lot easier to talk to clients, and I’m definitely getting more confident with it.
I had a few questions before I started. For example, I wanted to know what to wear, what the structure of the day would be like and what travel I’d be expected to do. You have a buddy to help you settle in and they email you before you start to help with any questions. And Pinterest helped a lot with what to wear!
I aim to start work between 8.15am and 8.45am. I work seven and a half hours per day and take an hour off for lunch. But it’s really flexible, you can take a longer or shorter lunch and/or start or finish a bit earlier if you need to. I’m really appreciating that flexibility, it makes life that bit easier.
On a Monday morning I look at what tasks I’ve been assigned. They start you off with the easy tasks at first, so that you can ease into the role. There will be some tasks I can get straight on with and others I need to get a bit of help with. It’s fine that you need help – you’re here to learn on the job, that’s a huge part of an AAT apprenticeship.
We then have a mid-week catch-up to see how we’re going, and towards the end of the week you let your senior (a more experienced colleague working on the same job) know what you’ve finished and how you’re getting on with your outstanding tasks.
Some audits are bigger than others and take longer for the team to complete. It’s important that you keep up-to-date with your timesheet, you record which clients you’re working on and for how long, including extra travel time. We need this info to know how effectively we’re working as a team.
Being Plymouth based, I’ve been working on audits in Devon and Cornwall. On the days when you go out to a client site to do an audit you might be working a bit longer, but you get the time back as time in lieu. And all your business travel expenses are funded by the firm.
There are a lot of socials, I’ve been on a day out at Adrenaline Quarry and to pay day drinks and team lunches. There was also a new starter lunch and everyone in the office stopped working and got together. Lots of people came along to say hi and that really helped me feel like part of the team.
I’ve enjoyed socialising outside of work, you get to know people more, build better connections and have fun! We have a big festive party coming up soon which I’m looking forward to.
I’m three months into the job and so far so good! I applied to PKF Francis Clark after friends and family recommended them; they really are a standout employer in Plymouth and I’m very happy to be here.
Harriet, AAT apprentice