Case study: Former Accounts Apprentice shares her experience

Beth Mackenzie a former Level 2 and 3 AAT Accountancy student and Level 4 AAT Accountancy Apprentice, is now employed at Harris and Co. as an Accounts Assistant. Beth recently visited the Business department when she participated in a networking event, and we caught up with her to find out what she’s been up to since she left the College in March 2018.

 

Tell us about your educational journey

I studied my GCSEs at Dearne ALC. When it got near the time of leaving, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but my friends encouraged me to study A Levels at Barnsley Sixth Form College. I chose to study Geography, Mathematics and Psychology as I was really interested in those subjects, but I wasn’t sure what to choose for the fourth one – I was good at Maths, so I chose Accounting. Since completing my course, I’ve realised being good at Maths isn’t strictly needed to work in the industry. Instead, having good interpersonal skills and a willingness to learn is more important, so don’t let it put you off a career in accountancy.

I liked my time at Barnsley Sixth Form College, but I realised I didn’t want to go to university. I really enjoyed studying Accountancy, so I spoke to my A Level Accountancy teacher who arranged for me to meet Nicky, the AAT Accountancy Course Leader. Nicky told me about the Level 2 AAT Accountancy course. I enrolled onto that and my journey at Barnsley College began. I progressed onto the Level 3 AAT Accountancy course and completed that the following year.

I then studied and completed a Level 4 AAT Accountancy Apprenticeship with Barnsley College. Now, I’m currently completing a ICAEW Level 7 Accountancy Apprenticeship with another training provider and, once I’ve completed and passed that qualification, I’ll be a fully qualified Chartered Accountant.

 

What made you become an apprentice?

When I completed my Level 3 AAT Accountancy qualification, I realised I needed to find a job. Originally, I wasn’t planning on studying an apprenticeship, but I saw an advert in the Barnsley Chronicle for a Level 4 AAT Accountancy Apprentice role at Harris and Co. and I thought ‘Why not apply? What have I got to lose?’ I applied and was successful.

I’m a big fan of apprenticeships. I think they’re amazing. Not only is your employer paying for you to gain your qualifications, but you’re surrounded by people who want to help you to increase your knowledge and achieve.

 

What are you doing now?

I’m currently employed by Harris and Co. as an Accounts Assistant in the Accounts Preparation team and I love it! Once I’ve completed my ICAEW Level 7 Accountancy Apprenticeship, I’ll be a fully qualified Chartered Accountant.

My role is really varied – I prepare VAT returns, year-end accounts, income/expenditure for sole traders, calculate tax for businesses, train clients on how to use their software and mentor two junior apprentices who work alongside me. I enjoy training them as it’s made me realise how much knowledge and experience I have. I’m also working with people who have years of experience and I’m developing my softer skills by working with other professionals.

 

Would you recommend studying with us?

Absolutely, Barnsley College is a brilliant college! My teacher, Nicky, was amazing; she helped me to write my CV and mentored me to be an accountant. She gave me so much support and was always there for me.

When the Business department contacted our firm about taking part in an event, I volunteered to come to the session. As a former student, we thought it would be good for the current students to talk to someone who was in their shoes a few years ago and share my journey with them.

It doesn’t seem like six years since I left but, wow, coming back onsite I’ve realised how much my life has changed since I left. I’ve grown in so many ways and it’s fantastic to come back. I miss College, especially the food! I recommend the chips and beans, they were good!

 

What advice would you like to pass onto future students?

I’ve got four pieces of advice that I passed onto the students:

  • Get work experience! Even if you just contact accountancy firms and complete one day a week for a month. It’s not just the skills you learn as an accountant, it’s the skills you’ll learn about being in a workplace. It will really help you when writing a CV or give you real experiences to talk about at interviews.
  • Be confident in your interview.
  • Learn Microsoft Excel. As an accountant you’ll spend most of your working day on a spreadsheet, so make sure you know as much as you can.
  • Learn as much as you can from your peers. They’re full of knowledge and experiences that will help you to develop.

 

Interested in studying an Accountancy course? Visit the Business departmental page for more information about the range of full and part-time Accountancy courses, apprenticeships and, new for September 2022, a T Level in Accounting we have available.

Last updated: 26th April 2022