When recruiting staff for a firm of Chartered Accountants, it might be expected that the main core would be people with a proven aptitude for maths.
Although numeracy is a key ingredient, Ben Sallows, an Associate at local accountants, Ashdown Hurrey, points out that advanced mathematical ability is not essential and good people skills and common sense are just as important.
Ashdown Hurrey look for a range of skills when selecting staff and recognise that a variety of people from different backgrounds and with different academic skills provides the balance needed. Ben adds “When we are looking to recruit, we like to look at the full range of applicants, as we have career opportunities suitable for A’ level students, graduates and those who have other commercial skills gained through earlier experience working in finance or industry.”
Most years, Ashdown Hurrey will recruit three or four new trainees, as it is recognised that recruiting and training people to meet the firm’s objectives tends to be a better approach than attempting to recruit the finished article. The Associate handling HR matters in the firm’s Hastings office, Kathryn Baker, comments “Ashdown Hurrey have a long history of ‘growing our own’ and the success of this is reflected by the fact that almost all of the senior positions within the organisation are staffed with people who trained with the practice. Training is central to this both internally to meet the office’s needs but also to undertake the professional exams set by the various professional bodies concerned.”
Variety is also reflected in the different training pathways open to trainees covering the range of different skills needed by the practice. In addition to successfully training Chartered and Certified Accountants, Ashdown Hurrey support training for Accounting Technicians who provide important back-up support and for specialisms in taxation, audit, charities and trusts, which give different opportunities for those wishing to add a niche specialism.
This year, most of the recruits have joined at graduate level, although their degree subjects and routes to accountancy are not all the same.
David Greenslade completed a marketing degree that got him interested in business generally; however, he felt that accountancy would suit him better in the longer term. David is based at the Bexhill office, while Rory Hunt joined the Hastings office having completed an accountancy and finance degree, so a rather more predictable approach.
Another graduate, Stephen Greenfield, completed a history degree and undertook five years working in industry where he started his accountancy training before making the decision to seek a position within the profession.
Stephen joined the practice to undertake specific management accounting support for one particular client, but will have skills of more general use to a range of clients as the need arises. He comments “Having been involved in accounting work in industry, I could see the benefit of obtaining formal qualifications and I feel that the support and back-up of working in a professional firm will be of benefit to me. I particularly look forward to exchanging ideas and knowledge with the other trainees and recently qualified people in the team. Working in isolation is much more difficult and I believe this change will be beneficial to me.”
Although many potential students are worried by the enormous debt which completing a degree can entail, a graduate route still remains popular with accountancy hopefuls and some university courses include a placement year where the student gains practical experience as part of the degree requirement. Lorna Piper joined the firm on such a placement as part of her maths degree at Bath and is pleased to have found a position with a local firm that will give her more than a year’s experience of working in an office, so that she can judge whether this is a career she might follow.
Previous placement students have come back to the practice, joined the training programme and qualified with us and we have also had school work experience students who later join the firm to follow an accountancy career. Kathryn comments “Schools encourage their pupils to undertake weekly or longer placements and the firm is pleased to support this initiative so that pupils can get an idea of what working in an office is all about.
For older students, we also support the Career Ready national charity intern scheme, where as part of their course they come and work for a six-week period to see if this kind of career is suitable for them. The students receive basic pay as part of the scheme and by the end of the placement, have had the chance to get to know more about what we do so that making later decisions is easier for them.”
Training accountants for the future is mutually beneficial for the students who can look forward to a successful career and for the practice which keeps a flow of trainees progressing to meet its own practical needs.
With youth unemployment and even difficulties for graduates finding suitable jobs, the Ashdown Hurrey programme meets an important need and although the practice does not receive any direct government support, it plays its part by providing local employment-related training.