From education to employment


Mark Farrar, Chief Executive at AAT

The Prime Minister has today announced the launch of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, offering funding for adults in England without an A-level or equivalent qualification to take college courses from April 2021. The National Skills Fund will provide funding for these causes, with additional funds also provided for small businesses to take on apprentices. 

Commenting on the announcement, Mark Farrar, Chief Executive at AAT, said: 

“The Prime Minister’s commitment today to skills and retraining for adults – at every stage of life and from any background – is of vital importance to the success of the jobs market. The Covid-19 pandemic is generating huge retraining and upskilling needs, and individuals with the required skills will ultimately fuel the nation’s economic recovery. Offering training to specifically meet employers’ needs gives us a clear direction of travel with further education skills training needed more than ever in a post Covid-19 and Brexit world. 

“However, with unemployment already on the rise it is somewhat concerning that this offer will not start until April 2021. By then, it is predicted that a million or more jobs may have gone. And, with further education under huge financial stress, the funding required to deliver these additional courses will be needed sooner rather than later.” 

AAT accountancy qualifications have helped many thousands of adults retrain and upskill over the past 40 years – often with no previous qualifications and from all different backgrounds. Over half of the people who get in touch about AAT’s accounting qualifications have not previously worked in the finance profession.  

I feel like accountancy has given me a second chance

Gareth Jones, 53 from Bristol, has worked on a production line for Ford Motor Company for nearly 20 years, assisting in the manufacturing of car engines.  

But the Bridgend plant where Gareth works is being closed at the end of September. As a result, Gareth is losing his job. 

“After being told I was to be made redundant, I decided on a whole new change of career,” Gareth says. “I could have taken an easy route and trudged around looking for the same, uninspiring factory work. Instead, I chose accountancy.” 

Gareth started studying at home for AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) accounting qualifications in March, with Ford paying for his accountancy training as part of Gareth’s redundancy package.  

He has averaged about 95% in the assessments he has sat so far, with further assessments taking place this month. 

“I’m taking six months out when my redundancy kicks in, in order to study full-time to gain the full professional accounting qualification,” Gareth adds. 

“Hopefully, despite my age, I’ll be able to secure a job and start a brand new career in accountancy. It’s quite rare to have such a sharp turn in your career path at 53, but circumstances have intervened, and I’m really looking forward to it.” 

I switched from the theatre to the accounting world

Verity Bartesch, 30 from Newcastle, took quite a dramatic change in direction to find herself working in finance. 

“I had been working as a Theatre Producer at Northern Stage,” Verity explains. “My degree is in Arts Management and Drama, and I initially worked at Curve Theatre in Leicester, also running a 70-seat theatre above a pub in the city, before moving to Newcastle.” 

Two years ago, Verity decided it was time for a change. She initially started studying for her AAT accounting qualifications from home, around her full-time job at Northern Stage.  

“I decided to study because I’d always had an interest in finance,” Verity says.  

“I felt like theatre wasn’t for me anymore, and so I took the plunge. A lot of people were confused when I told them I was leaving, because theatre seemed like a ‘dream job’. 

“And initially, studying accountancy felt a bit risky to spend time and money when I wasn’t working in an accounting role, and so I didn’t know if it was going to be worth it.” 

But thanks to her studies, Verity was able to secure a job in April 2019 as a team member in the accounts payable department at infrastructure and engineering company Balfour Beatty. She was promoted to assistant accountant in December. 

“I’ve loved learning a new, very tangible skill,” Verity adds. “I feel like what I’m learning is genuinely useful, and something that I can apply to many different industries and settings. Plus, when I started working for Balfour Beatty, I realised I could instantly put what I had learned to use.” 

Verity accessed AAT’s qualifications through an accounting apprenticeship with Kaplan. She is given days off work to have classroom-based tuition, which is currently being delivered online due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.  

“It can be difficult to find the time to study and revise, and there’s always a bit of pressure because there’s often an exam not far in the future,” she adds. “Luckily, at Balfour Beatty, a lot of people are in the same boat, and so it’s the norm to be working towards a qualification.” 

As well as her work and studies, Verity is a board member of Curious Arts, which develops projects and events in the North East to celebrate LGBTQ culture; and Gosforth Civic Theatre, an arts venue that is run by Liberdade Community Development Trust, a charity working with people with learning difficulties and autism. 

“My unique set of skills from the theatre and accounting worlds mean that I’m in a good place to support these organisations,” says Verity. “I still have a passion for theatre, and I’m pleased I can be involved in it in a different way.” 

“I’m really pleased I had the experience in theatre, but I’m also happy I made the decision to take my career in a different direction. AAT has given me a professional qualification as well as the knowledge I need to do my job.”

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