Recruitment of graduate trainees has been the accepted route into professional services for several decades, but disillusionment has grown on both sides.
Graduates often expect to start their career with a high lifestyle and a salary to offset university debts, while professional service firms may question exactly what applicable experience they are getting in return for the hefty investment. But there is another way says someone who has ‘been there, done that and got the t-shirt’.
Patrick Cantellow, 21, had an expectation to go to university, but opted instead for an apprenticeship and is now loving his role as Digital Marketing Executive with Kreston Reeves, the Chartered Accountants and Financial Advisers based in London, Kent and Sussex.
“I could have gone to uni and read Geography but the career options didn’t appeal,” he tells The Professionals.
And he already knew of an alternative, through Youth Employment UK – a leader in tackling the nation’s youth unemployment.
Patrick became both a passionate example and advocate for careers guidance and apprenticeships and now, in his fifth year as a volunteer and having served in senior roles, Youth Employment UK presented him with a Special Recognition Award for his commitment.
Patrick has also used his experience to secure apprenticeship qualifications up to a degree equivalent Level 6 qualification in Digital Marketing and thrives on the responsibility in his role at Kreston Reeves, after joining in 2019.
“Based in Sandwich, I oversee the company website and optimise content, search engine optimisation, and social media marketing,” said Patrick.
“I would have loved the university experience as I often visited friends there at weekends, but they start work with a debt to pay off and then risk finding they don’t even like the job and career they originally set their sights on three years earlier.
“From the employers’ point of view, most graduates will have little real experience of the workplace and might even have no idea how to answer the phone appropriately in a business environment.
“In my case, I have three years’ real work experience and confidence under my belt, a paid job with responsibility and satisfaction, my own car, no student debt and I’m saving to buy a house.
“An employer realises that an apprentice joins with a fresh mindset and will pay them while they are learning, training and integrating into the company – they will have a three-year head start on a graduate. They can also bring a high level of youthful ‘tech savvy’ to the business.”
Patrick agrees that apprenticeships had had some bad press with labels applied like ‘cheap labour’ and ‘maternity cover’ but added: “First of all, bona fide apprenticeships should be those run and funded under the Government scheme overseen by Ofsted and candidates need to do their homework first by researching good providers.
“Apprenticeships are also not just open to school leavers. There are opportunities across many age groups, and with education and training qualifications up to Level 7 or Masters degree equivalent.”
Karen Thompson, Training Manager at Kreston Reeves said: “Patrick is a great ambassador for the apprenticeship scheme, and we are very pleased to have him on our team here at Kreston Reeves.
“We are currently one of only four UK accountancy firms listed as an employer provider and are delighted to hold this much coveted status. We have 100 apprentices and most complete Level 7 (accounting and tax training). In addition to this, we also have our own training programme which supports learning on wider business, personal and technical skills.”
For employers: www.gov.uk/employing-an-apprentice/get-funding
For would-be apprentices: www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship
Youth Employment UK: www.youthemployment.org.uk