Helen Bloodworth, training manager from Baker Tilly, talks us through starting steps and considerations when taking on an apprentice in the lucrative field of finance and accountancy to tie in with Apprenticeship week (6 – 11 Feb 2012).

• Understand that taking on an apprentice is a long term investment. (Our apprenticeship programme is five years long.) If nurtured well, they can be moulded with specific skills to suit your business proportion but you do need to have a strategy in place to ensure they are being managed, mentored and trained properly

• Once you’ve decided you want an apprentice, you can speak to the NAS (National Apprenticeship Service.) A National Apprenticeship representative can guide you through the candidates they have available and training providers which would work best for your business depending on your business needs. Their website is a good port of call for any general enquires you may have

• Get the most out of the interview process. We use psychometric testing which allows us to get a good idea of our candidate’s personality and attitudes. While naturally we require individuals with certain academic qualities, we also want to make sure our apprentices are a cultural fit for Baker Tilly. Think carefully about the type of people you need. Don’t be afraid to have more than one interview and use tests to ensure you get the right calibre of people through the door

• The right training matters – Spend time investing in the right qualifications your apprentices are going to get the best from and essentially add more value to your business. (You can discuss this in more detail with training providers). We’ve always used AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) – it is well recognised within our industry and gives our apprentices the skills they need for their day-to-day work and gives them the right foundations to move on to their further studies to become chartered accountants

• Expect a few hiccups at the beginning especially as getting things right can be timely, however with apprenticeship programmes being part government funded in most cases they can be cost effective and a great way to get your hands on talented individuals that are passionate about working in your sector of business and eager to learn