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William Beards

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“The overall experience of the apprenticeship; I cannot recommend it highly enough. The opportunity to go straight into a paid job without incurring any debt, and at the same time as working towards a qualification has been perfect.”

The university lifestyle is not for everyone
I completed my A-Levels at Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe. We were really encouraged to apply for university, and I found myself filling out my UCAS applications alongside everyone else as this was what was expected of us. I was accepted onto a Finance and Business Degree at Loughborough University, but once I started the course, I realised quite quickly that university wasn’t for me. Although I enjoyed the course, I did not enjoy the university lifestyle and after about three weeks I decided to leave the course and move back home.

I wanted a different option instead of university, where I was able to start work straightaway whilst gaining qualifications. I knew I always wanted to work in finance and so I started looking into apprenticeships.

An apprenticeship at Mercer & Hole has provided practical experience alongside study
I am thoroughly enjoying my time at Mercer & Hole, and I have learnt a lot. I think the experience of working within a professional environment has enhanced my individual development and complemented my study time at college. The structure is great, as you have time for college days and work, with support from the firm. Taking on exams and working full time can be quite challenging, but there is an understanding that this is a first job, and everyone is so supportive in helping you with the transition from leaving school and going into a full-time job.

“You can go to university and learn the technical skills, but you do not gain the experience of working in the industry. I have had the opportunity to go to client meetings with my manager and work with fully qualified seniors on a variety of jobs. Recently I have been given an allocation of private clients to complete tax returns for as a case handler which has enabled me to work independently and demonstrate what I have learnt.”

Despite taking on the responsibility of your day-to-day job and the pressures that accompany this, Mercer & Hole place a significant level of importance on your learning and study time which is extremely beneficial in developing your knowledge as an apprentice. Overall, it is a challenge but a good one.

Throughout varying points within my apprenticeship I have felt a real sense of achievement, whether that be from performing well at work or achieving great exam results. The most crucial aspect that factored into my decision was ensuring I would still be able to gain a respected professional qualification without going to university, which is very much the case. The apprenticeship has provided me with the opportunity to gain practical experience of working at a firm in an environment surrounded by other professionals.

The application process was really straightforward at Mercer & Hole
After deciding university was not the right choice for me, I knew that I wanted to complete an apprenticeship in the finance sector. I started researching and looking for apprenticeships online and found the job advert for Mercer & Hole, on an apprenticeship job advertising site.

“I went onto the Mercer & Hole website and I read all about the firm. I really liked the look of the work environment and what the firm stood for. I was also really impressed with their apprenticeship pathway.”

The application process was straightforward. I submitted my CV for the position and then completed some questions and online tests. My results were sent to Mercer & Hole who then interviewed me over the phone and then via Zoom (as opposed to a face-to-face meeting because this was during the pandemic).

Consider your options and do not be afraid of going against the grain!
“My advice to anyone finishing school is to look at the different options out there. Definitely investigate different apprenticeships, look at the benefits and really consider applying for one.”

It is very common not to know what you want to do when you finish school. A lot of schools will encourage you to go to university but that is not the only option. Take your time and look into what an apprenticeship really is – you can earn a qualification whilst gaining the experience of working full time and earning money. The Accounting Apprenticeship here at Mercer & Hole offers a great pathway into a successful career within the industry. At Mercer & Hole everyone understands that you are joining the firm as an apprentice, you are not going to know everything, and it is your first time in a professional environment. Everyone is there to help, whether that’s Directors, Managers, Trainees or other Apprentices. You will always receive the guidance you need to help develop within your role and into a well-rounded individual.

Next steps
I have recently passed the personal tax paper, which leaves me with the final AAT Level 4 case study exam to complete. Once this has been achieved, I am looking to move onto either the ACA/CTA or ATT/CTA exam pathway. I will have a discussion with my manager and consider which route will work best both for myself and the firm.

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