ICAEW is a world-leading professional body supporting over 147,000 members in 154 countries. Accounting and professional services is one of the biggest recruiters of graduates and school leavers, and at ICAEW we currently have over 25,000 students taking our qualifications.

The ACA is a rigorous and globally recognised qualification. As well as technical accounting skills, it provides employees with the professional and strategic abilities they need to make an impact. But we must dispel a few myths. It’s not just about numbers and students certainly don’t need to have a degree. There are five main routes to the ACA qualification and becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant. Three of these routes are available from school leaver age: ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (ICAEW CFAB), Higher Apprenticeship in Accountancy and the AAT-ACA Fast Track.

With the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April, as part of a Government drive to train 3 million new apprentices by 2020, there are now more options to the ACA for those starting out in their careers, which means employees can still become a chartered accountant without going to university.  By offering apprenticeships, businesses can pride themselves in being ahead of the game and leading the future of the profession. In fact, 82% of employers already take on apprentices to build on the skills capacity within their business, and 89% of employers believe that apprentices make their business more productive.

ICAEW has been surprised to hear many businesses who are eligible to pay the Apprenticeship Levy are not aware of its existence. The levy will affect all businesses in one way or another, so it is crucial that all employers are aware of the implications of the levy, the associated benefits of hiring an apprentice and how to take advantage of this.

For ICAEW, the merits of these new opportunities are clear which is why we have joined forces with employers, industry bodies and tuition providers to develop a new trailblazer apprenticeship. For school leavers, the Level 4 Accounting Technician Apprenticeship offers students an alternative route into the accountancy profession and can be a great stepping stone to the ACA.

Choosing either the  ICAEW  CFAB qualification or Apprenticeship programme enables those with school and college qualifications to start working in the finance sector and take their first steps to qualifying as a chartered accountant. Both options would take between 1-2 years and for those who take the apprenticeship route, there is a mix of examinations and work experience as well as a final end-point assessment, before achieving the apprentice or CFAB qualification.

By the end of the apprenticeship students will have studied the ACA Certificate Level exams and completed a proportion of the required practical work experience. In addition, students will have developed the softer business skills that so many employers tell us are just as important as being technically competent. For example, communication skills, likeability, adaptability, emotional intelligence and leadership are among core skills and attitudes. While it is a qualification in its own right, students will also be in a strong position to secure a training agreement and complete the remaining elements of the ACA qualification.

Both the ICAEW CFAB qualification and Apprenticeship programme are also popular choices for employers looking to up skill their staff. Whether it’s a new recruit or even a graduate with a non-relevant degree these qualifications will give your employees both knowledge and confidence while teaching the essentials of business, accounting and finance.

Recruiting school leavers widens access to the accountancy profession and provides businesses with a more diverse workforce. It is also an opportunity to cast the net a little wider to tap into a deeper pool of talent. To offer our qualifications to your employees, you’ll first need to become authorised by us.  You don’t need to be a particular type of organisation to become authorised with ICAEW. We currently have 4,997 authorised training employers  around the world – both large and small, from every kind of sector. Some employ hundreds of thousands, others only a handful.

ICAEW hopes that businesses across the UK will support apprenticeships and those starting out in their careers to open more doors for the next generation of talent.

For more information www.icaew.com/trailblazers