When Alice Taylor finished her A-levels she knew she wanted to study for a degree, but she didn’t want the debt that normally comes with it. The Flying Start degree at Henley Business School gave her the opportunity to do just that, and we found out how it’s going…
Why did you decide to undertake a School Leaver Programme and how did you decide what to study?
I wanted a degree without all the debt. The Flying Start Degree at Henley Business School offered this. With a family of chartered accountants and a mind for numbers, I developed a real passion for this route.
What made you choose to study flying start?
I honestly do get the best of both worlds. I’m at university, however I take my spring term each year to do a paid work placement at PwC, which allows me to build up the experience I need to qualify as a Chartered Accountant. At the same time, I get the university experience of living with friends, joining clubs and societies and enjoying socials and nights out.
I will gain a degree, a professional qualification and a graduate job at the end of it.
What features of this particular programme made it appealing to you? Perhaps there was a certain practical element or theoretical module which peaked your interest for example?
The practical, hands on element of working with real clients on placement is the most appealing aspect for me. The theoretical modules are great, as they relate directly to the practical side that encourages me to make the most of learning and really put the theory into practice.
Why did you feel a School Leaver Programme was the best training option for accountancy? Perhaps this decision was related to the amount of practical in branch work you would experience for example?
Accounting theories are easier to understand when you are looking at the real thing. Having a placement in a firm where accountancy is tested meticulously has allowed me to understand and unpick accountancy practices. This is not something you can gain from studying on its own.
How many hours do you spend on your programme each week? Was this a factor in your decision to undertake one?
It varies depending on your office and portfolio of clients, but I work an average of 45 hours a week during placement, as we join PwC’s Assurance practice during their busiest time of year.
When I’m at university, I have a full timetable for two terms. The Flying Start programme is very intense and challenging, which should be a factor when considering this degree, as it is not an easy route. This didn’t put me off as I would rather work hard towards something not everyone can do, and I’m supported every step of the way by the university and PwC.
What resources/materials did you use to make your decision on further accounting education?
I did lots of my own online research, on the PwC website, Henley Business School/Reading University website and spoke to family members. Attending assessment and open days is also a great way to get an insight and speak to current students.
How much responsibility do you have on your accountancy programme? Did this affect your decision to study a School Leaver Programme?
The responsibility to make the most of the opportunity is completely yours. You get as much out of the course and experience as you put in.
While on placement you’re given similar responsibilities to a graduate: you get access to important, confidential financial information, often of famous and successful clients, which you are trusted to analyse and test effectively. You’re coached by experienced professionals to make sure you know what you’re doing, but they put a lot of trust in you in return.
What is the most challenging element of undertaking a School Leaver Programme? And the most enjoyable? Has this surprised you?
The workload is high and intense, and the pass marks are higher than university standards due to the requirements needed for the ACA qualification. This sometimes means taking a more balanced approach to my social life and sometimes missing out on things at university while I’m on placement.
The contrast is that being on placement and living the London life on a salary is brilliant. Knowing that I’m completing modules that exempt me from ACA exams also gives me great peace of mind and is an investment in my future.
Do you think choosing a School Leaver Programme has boosted your employability prospects? In what ways?
Absolutely, companies are looking for experience and enthusiasm over any other attribute and having Flying Start on your CV displays both.
What career do you hope your School Leaver Programme will path the way into? Did you know this when you applied, or has your ambition been influenced further during the course of your programme?
This programme will allow me a fast track to becoming a Chartered Accountant through becoming a PwC auditor. It has been my ambition since A-levels to gain a professional job, and a highly acclaimed qualification and degree.
Where do you see yourself working a year on from completing your School Leaver Programme? How is your programme helping you work towards this goal?
A year after completing my degree program, I’ll qualify as a Chartered Accountant. This is the aim of the course and is one of the fastest routes to qualify in the UK. Some modules exempt me from the ACA exams, so with only three left after graduating university in 2017, I’ll then be able to consider secondments overseas or to different teams within PwC.
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