Hear from employers

Paul Cochrane - McEwan Wallace

McEwan Wallace

McEwan Wallace is a firm of chartered accountants based in Birkenhead, Wirral, Merseyside. The firm has four partners and together with its sister Wealth Management and Payroll companies employs 60 staff. The client base is a mix of owner-managed companies, professional practices and high net worth individuals. We provide the usual range of audit and accountancy services. We also have a significant amount of corporate finance work and this often involves a large element of tax advice. 
The firm is organised into two departments – audit/accounts and tax. The tax department comprises eight people.

Paul Cochrane – Partner

I am a chartered accountant and have been a partner with McEwan Wallace for over 20 years. I have been the firm’s Staff Partner during that period. I am also Deputy President of the Liverpool Society of Chartered Accountants. I trained with Grant Thornton and spent four years as a manager with KPMG before joining McEwan Wallace.

As an employer – what do you think you can gain from hiring an apprentice?

Training is an integral part in preparing staff to work in a professional office. We recruit one tax trainee each year. To date, our policy has been to recruit graduate trainees. Each trainee is provided with a training contract, initially to study to become members of the Association of Taxation Technicians, with a view to progress to the Chartered Institute of Taxation exams. I see the training contract as being similar to an apprenticeship; the structured approach provides a formal commitment from both trainee and the employer. The main difference with an apprenticeship is that external training companies can play a greater role in the apprentice’s development. Although we identified and recruited our own apprentice, our training provider would have found apprentices for us to interview. 

What do you think are the differences between apprenticeships, graduate and other recruitment channels?

This is the first year that we have recruited an apprentice tax trainee. As mentioned, we previously only recruited graduates. This contrasts with our audit trainees where we moved away from graduate recruitment some years ago. We seek to recruit bright A level students, those who would quite possibly have the option to go to university but instead have chosen to work and study. Would the time spent pursuing a degree increase a trainee’s ability to not only pass the exams but also become very quickly an effective member of staff? Well, time will tell.

What do you feel are the specific benefits to the apprenticeship recruitment channel?

It enables us to offer a structured development programme to trainees. This provides candidates with the confidence that they are embarking on a worthwhile career. We are in competition for the best candidates with the national accountancy firms and to an extent the apprenticeship programme helps provide a level playing field. One other benefit is obviously the financial assistance provided towards training costs.

In your opinion, what is the unique selling point of this specific higher apprenticeship programme?

The programme isn’t a one-off initiative. It is a scheme with widespread national support and if we find it to be a success this year we will be able to participate again in future years. It will become an integral part of our student recruitment and development.

Would you recommend the higher apprenticeship programme to other employers?

We have yet to get through our first year but I would certainly recommend employers explore this as an option.

Lauren Harvey - Fullstop accounts

FullStop Accounts

Lauren Harvey – Director

We are a small practice which started out in January 2011 after moving to Cardiff.
Previously I had always worked in industry and did my training there too. We opened after a number of people were looking for in-house finance functions without the investment this involves. Depending on the client we now provide a ‘full stop’ accounting service from bookkeeping and/or in-house systems advice along to management accounts and then ending with (but not limited to) financial statements and tax returns.

As an employer, what do you think you can gain from hiring an apprentice?

Currently, being small, we appreciate the value of well trained staff but we really need value for money – we are looking for someone who is driven towards their future, and in return for helping them with our knowledge and experience we get a committed individual who can help drive our business forward.

What do you think are the differences between apprenticeships, graduate and other recruitment channels?

Having been on a graduate training scheme myself I know first-hand that these, along with apprenticeships, are great introductions to business (and part of the reason we want to offer an apprenticeship). However, you pay a premium for [graduates’] university experience and yet they can have little real world experience and more importantly have only university experience which may not directly be of benefit to the organisation. For us in particular, we are prepared to take on an apprentice with a lesser education but an early interest in the direction they wish to follow and an ability to follow their learning through on-the-job training and contact with the training provider.

What do you feel are the specific benefits to the apprenticeship recruitment channel?

Any employer dreads finding the ‘wrong’ person, yet between the ATT, training providers and the Government there appears to be plenty of support to make sure you get the right person without the usual expense of recruitment agencies etc.

In your opinion, what is the unique selling point of this specific higher apprenticeship programme?

For us it is all about the tax education at its core rather than other programmes with accounting at their core – we have plenty of accounting experience and would value more tax experience in house – so it really will be great to have a tax studier on board to keep us on our toes with all the latest legislation!

Would you recommend the higher apprenticeship programme to other employers?

Yes, I would – and it has been interesting when talking to people, they think it’s a great thing that our company wants to offer apprenticeships as opposed to other types of employment – whether it is the economic climate or the media with its constant youth unemployment stats. But it definitely seems to be something people are interested in and they are impressed that a small company is considering it – so win-win all round!