Leading business and financial adviser Grant Thornton UK LLP has revealed that it has offered almost four times as many places to A-level school leavers as it did in 2011.

This increased intake, from 19 places in 2011 to 70 places in 2017, has been driven by the firm’s commitment to widening access to the profession, becoming more inclusive and increasing diversity, along with a business need to attract entry-level talent in a competitive market.

School leavers currently represent around a quarter (26%) of Grant Thornton’s total trainee intake. They join the firm for a five-year programme during which they work with a cross-section of clients whilst also studying for professional accountancy qualifications. School leavers at the firm first complete relevant Higher Apprenticeships before going on to complete professional chartered accountancy qualifications.

Other graduate employers in the UK are also starting to offer more Higher Apprenticeships to attract talent and build relevant skills in their workforce. Around 27% of the 12,300 apprenticeships due to be offered by graduate employers in the next year are higher apprenticeships, many of which require A-levels.[1]

Richard Waite, head of resourcing, Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:

“At Grant Thornton we champion the opportunities a Higher Apprenticeship can offer. This entry route has grown enormously in popularity, which is reflected by the huge increase in our school leaver intake over the past six years.

“Focusing on Higher Apprenticeships has proven beneficial for our business in a number of ways. We work hard to build and maintain a market-leading candidate experience for A-level students considering alternatives to university. Doing this well allows us to compete successfully for talent in a very competitive market place.

“Also, by removing academic barriers to entry, which we also did at degree level, we’ve been able to open up a new pool of talent and increase opportunities for a more diverse range of people. Grant Thornton was one of the first professional services firms to do this, as we realised that the best people might not always be the most academic but may have other great skills to offer the firm and our clients.”*

School leaver programmes offering Higher Apprenticeships are also increasingly attractive to school leavers, as earning whilst gaining qualifications is, for some, a good alternative to university education.

Lisa Newland, recovery and reorganisation associate, is now in her third year of Grant Thornton’s school leaver programme. She said:

“I decided that university was not the right route for me and after initially getting an entry level job in an accountancy firm and building foundation skills in the profession, I wanted to further my opportunities within the industry.

“Many accountancy firms wouldn’t hire me onto their trainee schemes because of my A level grades so when I heard that Grant Thornton had relaxed its academic requirements I immediately applied. I am now in a job that I love as I am constantly learning and enhancing my understanding of the business environment. I also visit schools and career fairs on behalf of the firm to talk about my experience and inspire others who may find themselves in a similar position.”

About Grant Thornton:  One of the world’s leading organisations of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms. These firms help dynamic organisations unlock their potential for growth by providing meaningful, forward-thinking advice. Proactive teams, led by approachable partners in these firms, use insights, experience and instinct to understand complex issues for privately owned, publicly listed and public sector clients and help them to find solutions. More than 38,500 Grant Thornton people, across over 120 countries, are focused on making a difference to clients, colleagues and the communities in which we live and work. The UK Grant Thornton member firm provides services to over 40,000 privately held businesses, public interest entities and individuals. It is led by more than 185 partners and employs more than 4,200 of the profession's brightest minds.

* 32% of the 2016/17 school leaver intake would have previously been unable to apply based on academic criteria, including secondary school performance and degree classification. Research conducted by The Bridge Group showed that these individuals were performing at the same level or better than those who would previously been eligible.

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