From education to employment

Home Group uses the #Apprenticeship levy to unlock talent

(From left to right) Malgozata Piechowska, Anarita Lopes, Simon Blincowe, Nihan De Souza, Stuart Campbell

Home Group, one of the UK’s largest and most established housing associations, has used its apprenticeship levy to develop a management level accountancy programme in partnership with training company Access Training.

Home Group is a national charity focused on giving people most in need of support a better quality of life, when they are confronted with any combination of financial, social, mental or physical issues. The group has a turnover in excess of £360m and numbers a 55,000 strong housing stock.

John Hudson, chief operating officer at Home Group, said: “I’m continually looking at how we can deliver our social agenda more effectively across all our divisions.

“The introduction of this Level 4 Accountancy Apprenticeship in partnership with Access Training is a direct result of our strategy to restructure our finance team to be more integrated, with individual team members possessing broader responsibilities across the organisation.”

Stuart Campbell, Home Group’s National Apprenticeship Manager, said: “We’ve developed this new strand within our apprenticeship scheme which we felt would unlock a pool of talented individuals.

“As a large organisation with a significant apprenticeship levy pot we are committed to apprenticeships. However, despite recruiting over 150 apprentices nationally since April 2017, we’ve never recruited and delivered an apprenticeship programme in the Finance area at this level, so we are happy to have joined forces with our training partner Access Training to make the recruitment and delivery of this element of the programme successful.”

Three gifted people from diverse backgrounds have been working in Home Group’s finance department as Level 4 accountancy apprentices since July 2018.

Originally from Poland Malgorzata Piechowska, 35, lives in South Shields, and London before that, where she had been home studying an AAT Level 3 qualification whilst working full time in various jobs to pay her bills.

From Cape Verde, Anarita Lopes, 33, came to the UK after time spent in France and Portugal and applied for the position with the Home Group after studying at Newcastle College and the University of Sunderland, while at the same time working full time and raising three boys.

Anarita said: “The Home Group Accountancy apprenticeship has made a huge difference to me, the one day a week study at Access Training for the AAT Level 4 qualification is the next stage in my accountancy qualifications, but the difference is I’m able to learn whilst understanding how a large organisation works from the inside.”

The third recruit, Turkish national Nihan De Souza, 38, lives in Consett with her husband and two young children. She completed a Business degree in her home country in 2013 but has welcomed the opportunity to develop more specialised finance and accountancy skills.

Home Group’s Accountancy Apprenticeship has been specially designed in partnership with Access Training to offer a varied experience in the individuals’ work role balanced with weekly taught sessions delivered by Access at the Gateshead Skills Academy.

Stuart Campbell added: “With these three excellent recruits we feel that we’ve really enhanced our blue print to ensure we continue to get an excellent balance of skills, ongoing training and ability within our finance team and going forward within other areas.”

Access Training’s AAT trainer Simon Blincowe said:

“The AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) Level 4 apprenticeship is aimed at developing Professional Accounting Technicians and individuals have to develop skills at a high level, ensuring their organisation has accurate and timely financial information.

“The AAT apprenticeship coupled with the excellent work experience they’re undertaking in such a well-established charity, means this is an excellent opportunity for all three to experience lift off in their careers.”

Access Training’s Managing Director Malcolm Armstrong said:

“This is an excellent example of how recent reforms to apprenticeships can support individuals and businesses.

“Home Group is using their apprenticeship levy to consider different ways of applying apprenticeships within their business. Apprenticeships are now available at increasingly higher levels (now including degree apprenticeships) and attract adults looking to retrain or upskill as well as young people just starting out in their careers.”

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