Why I Chose My School Leaver Programme in Accountancy

Want to get ahead in the finance industry, without the headache of university debt? That’s just what Beth Young is doing: the BDO School Leaver Programme means she will qualify as a fully chartered accountant without paying a penny, plus she'll have five years of work experience under her belt. We caught up with her to see how it’s going.

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Why did you decide to undertake a School Leaver Programme and how did you decide what to study? 

One of my parents’ friends works for BPP (a training provider for professional business-related qualifications) who I spoke to about wanting to become an accountant. She explained the benefits of both Apprenticeships and School Leaver Programmes so I researched them more in-depth and found BDO’s excellent programme.

What made you choose to study a School Leaver Programme over an apprenticeship or university route?

BDO’s School Leaver Programme also includes a two-year apprenticeship after which I will gain a Level 4 Certification in Finance, Accounting and Business. My sixth form college highly promoted university with 99% of their students going on to further education. 

However, I read further into the School Leaver Programme and very quickly realised there were huge benefits to it one being that I would qualify a year earlier than I would if I attended university. Also I would be gaining experience, training, learning on the job and earning a salary.  I was pretty sure what I wanted to do and focussed all my attention on achieving it.

What features of this particular programme made it appealing to you? Perhaps there was a certain practical element or theoretical module which piqued your interest for example?

I was attracted to the idea of gaining experience within the workplace as well as gaining qualifications – this wouldn’t have been possible had I gone to university.

Why did you feel a School Leaver Programme was the best training option for banking, finance or accountancy? Perhaps this decision was related to the amount of practical in branch work you would experience for example?

From the moment I started, I was booked to various clients’ audits so the practical experience I have achieved is invaluable.  I will have five years of practical work experience upon qualification and I won’t have any student debt – it wasn’t a difficult decision really!

How many hours do you spend on your programme each week? Was this a factor in your decision to undertake one?

In addition to our standard working hours, our two-year apprenticeship is made up of four business-related assignments that generally take around 50 hours per week. Our apprenticeship provider is understanding of our work situation and encourages the assignments to be completed gradually, i.e. a few hours per week during the evenings or weekends.

What resources/materials did you use to make your decision on further banking, finance or accounting education?

The internet is great when researching different programmes and the qualifications they offer – it’s purely a matter of picking a programme which best suits you and the way you want to work and study.

How much responsibility do you have on your banking, finance or accountancy programme? Did this affect your decision to study a School Leaver Programme?

On this programme you are client facing very soon after joining.  BDO place a lot of responsibility on you and your ability to conduct yourself professionally and appropriately when addressing clients – it’s a bit nerve-wracking at first but you get used to it pretty quickly.

What is the most challenging element of undertaking a School Leaver Programme? And the most enjoyable? Has this surprised you?

The most challenging element for me was the first exam – I didn’t know what to expect and I worried about it a lot but thankfully I passed and now I know better ways to revise for future exams.

The most enjoyable is definitely the people: everyone at BDO, especially other school leavers who joined before, understand what you’re going through and you can always ask them questions if you have any, they are extremely helpful and supportive.

Do you think choosing a School Leaver Programme has boosted your employability prospects? In what ways?

Yes, definitely. On completion, I will be a fully qualified chartered accountant with five years of hands-on experience – not many 23-year-olds can say that!

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?

The ACA qualification which I will obtain opens so many doors in terms of moving forward and this is something I am going to look into more thoroughly closer to completion. 

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? 

I am a huge supporter of charities and I volunteer for a few. I have worked on many charitable accounts to date and I’ve really enjoyed the variety, so I will definitely consider working for a charity in the future. 

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