Why I chose my School Leaver Programme in Accountancy

  • Emma Finamore
  • Last updated 11 Oct 2018

Kara Duncan took an academic range of Scottish Highers, including Chemistry, Biology and History, but when it came to leaving school she chose a less traditional path: the EY School Leaver Programme. We caught up with her to find out how she’s enjoying her new role as a Trainee Associate.


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

I had always shown an interest in finance so the decision to join an accountancy firm was an easy one.  I decided on a School Leaver Programme when I realised I would qualify through ICAS (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland) sooner than if I decided to go to university, while gaining vital on the job experience and exposure to major global clients.

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

I thought the hands-on, practical, learning-on–the-job style suited me more than studying through a textbook at university.  I wanted to gain crucial experience working with other EY colleagues and clients that I would not have had the opportunity to do at university.

What features of this particular programme made it appealing to you?

The EY School Leaver Programme stood out to me because I liked the idea of being able to train with a global firm with a high profile like EY’s.  Working for EY means I have exposure to major clients and have lots of training and development opportunities.

Why did you feel a School Leaver Programme was the best training option for the profession you wanted to pursue?

I feel like the School Leaver Programme was the best training option for me as I was keen to gain hands-on experience where I would be challenged and engaged by my work.  By joining the school leaver programme, I was fast-tracking my career and putting myself ahead of others my age who had decided to study at university.

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

I am contracted to work 37.5 hours a week alongside studying for my ICAS qualification, with exams throughout the year.  EY’s focus on flexible working means I can alter the times I work to suit me and gives me the best work-life balance.

What resources/materials did you use to make your decision on further education? For example, speaking to teachers, or online research?

My school provided lots of information about universities, but I decided to seek out other options available to me.  I mainly used the internet to search for school leaver opportunities and upon finding the EY School Leaver Programme, I used the EY Schools Twitter page and YouTube channel to find out more about the programme and the firm as a whole.       

How much responsibility do you have? Did this affect your decision to study a School Leaver Programme?

I have as much experience working at EY as a School Leaver as any other employee, which is something I really enjoy about my position.  Working in audit, I take responsibility for several sections of the work we do and liaise with the client and other members of the EY team to establish exactly what is required of me. I have to ensure work is completed on time and to a high standard.

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

The most challenging element of the Programme has been organising my time to ensure I maintain my studies at the same time as working on several demanding engagements throughout our busy season. 

The most enjoyable thing has been developing both role specific skills and ‘soft’ skills, and getting the opportunity to meet and build networks with other school leavers form across the UK.  I was not surprised that there were challenges to overcome as part of the School Leaver Programme and have been supported by the firm and my colleagues through these challenges.

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

I think choosing to join a school leaver programme will fast-track my career as I will have more experience in a work environment than other people who choose to study at university and then move into the accountancy field.  I will also have completed my professional qualification faster than if I ‘d gone to university and will have grown a large network over my time on the School Leaver Programme.

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?

By joining the EY School Leaver Programme I have confirmed that I do wish to work in finance, and I’m currently enjoying working in the assurance department as a trainee auditor. 

Before I joined the programme I knew I wanted to work in accountancy but the experiences I have had with EY have confirmed this. Working within audit provides an excellent overall understanding of all facets of finance and so does not limit one to a specific future role.

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 the EY School Leaver Programme I still see myself working for EY and continuing to gain experience as a qualified CA.  I would like to see myself working towards promotion and possibly using my skills to work towards a secondment to another part of the world with EY.


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