By Phil Lane
Phil Lane, a partner in financial advisory, looks at the opportunities and challenges of apprenticeships and how they’re a great way to gain experience, study for a professional qualification and build a successful career at the same time.
Deloitte has offered apprenticeships for a few years now and our BrightStart programme is a great example of an early careers path that’s considered as a real alternative to university. Personally, I think an apprenticeship is a great route to building your career in financial advisory, which is my area of the business.
Our firm is involved in many projects and activities to reach out to different schools and sixth form colleges to help create awareness of our various opportunities and career pathways, as well as being involved with other organisations that promote apprenticeships, such as Business in the Community. More locally, some of our existing BrightStart apprentices attend careers fairs at schools in the area to share their experiences first-hand with GCSE- and A-level students.
One of the advantages of opting for an apprenticeship such as our BrightStart programme, is that it gives high-performing individuals the opportunity to work towards a professional qualification, without having to have a degree first. With university becoming an increasingly expensive option for many people, I can certainly understand the appeal of apprenticeships. It shows real progress that young people have a number of different options and pathways open to them nowadays to start their careers.
One of the biggest challenges that apprentices face, however, is sometimes not related directly to their role or where they work. It’s more about adapting to a shift in lifestyle in a relatively short timeframe. For example, apprentices will often experience a rapid transition – one moment, they are on their summer holidays after finishing school and then suddenly, they’re straight into the world of work. That’s a big adjustment in itself, and there are some apprentices that face even more changes, for example they may be moving out of home for the first time into a new living arrangement, not only leaving their family unit and becoming more independent but also moving to a new city. In my team, we make a concerted effort to remember that our apprentices are still quite young, have fewer life skills and are on a steep learning curve and we support them as best we can, and help them to adapt.
Our apprentices, especially the ones I work with in the advisory corporate finance team, become an integral part of our team from day one. We make sure they start assisting on client projects straightaway, maybe with bite-sized tasks to begin with, such as around project management, assisting more senior team members with document preparation or other such tasks. In our team, we very much feel that if someone is ready for more responsibility, we’ll support them to rise to the challenge and accelerate their learning on the job as fast as they’re able to go, as we can flex the programme according to the individual and their skills.
As a Deloitte apprentice, the learning side is structured as individuals are working towards, and studying for, a professional qualification. You are supported by an agreed amount of paid time off work to study at college, some in person and some online, for which you’ll sit between 10-12 exams over a 3-4 year period, following which you’ll have a professional qualification. In addition to the formal training, our people have access to a number of training courses that are run in-house, on things such as technical skills, management skills, people development, as well as broader skills such as networking to ensure they receive rounded training to help them with all aspects of their role.
I’d say that over the last five years, my team in the South & Wales has taken on a mix of both apprentices and graduates, probably about 50/50. Our team in financial advisory is not as large as some other areas of the Deloitte business in the region who invariably take on a higher number of apprentices. However, the impact our apprentices have made has been tremendous.
It’s a real delight to see someone develop and progress, especially if it’s an individual you actually recruited. For example, some of our apprentices who joined us three years ago and currently in the last year of their apprenticeship, are now supervising other people and taking key positions on client engagements. I sometimes have to remember that these apprentices are still only around 21 or 22 years old, but the amount of experience they’ve gained since they first started is amazing,
One such person who springs to mind is Morwenna, who’s in her fourth year of a BrightStart apprenticeship in financial advisory in the South & Wales. She was involved in a large transaction recently, and by transaction, I mean a deal where one company buys (or sells) another. Morwenna was an integral part of the engagement team where we advised our client, the seller in this instance. She attended the completion meeting and was responsible for large areas of the engagement. It genuinely makes me hugely proud to see someone who joined us as an apprentice deliver on a transaction in such a mature way, working closely with more senior and experienced colleagues, but still holding her own in that environment.
It makes it all worth it to see someone who joined the firm as an apprentice progress and make such a valuable contribution not only to our team, but the client and our business as a whole, and be well on their way to a successful career in financial advisory.
Apprenticeship Week Wales celebrates apprenticeships and the value they bring to employers and learners across Wales.
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Deloitte is a supporter of the campaign and, by sharing our stories, we would like to encourage everyone to consider how apprenticeships can help individuals to develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career. We’re one of a number of employers celebrating the apprenticeship community, highlighting the opportunities to earn a wage and gain new skills and qualifications, and showcasing the resilience of apprentices and their employers during the pandemic.
Explore Deloitte’s virtual Spring careers festival, a programme of virtual events that potential applicants can join, as well as parents, teachers and careers advisors. These range from discovery sessions, where people can chat online with our student recruitment team or current apprentices, skills workshops as well as ‘Meet Deloitte’ sessions.