Equity is important for those who successfully study for ACA qualifications. Companies that employ both apprentices and graduates need to understand the concept of equity and apply it carefully to ensure everyone has the best chance of succeeding.


The importance of fairness in the workplace may seem so obvious that it requires no discussion, but for those entering the profession through different pathways, being treated fairly is vital. Solidarity employers recognize the difference between equality – where the goal is to treat everyone equally, regardless of background – and equity, which takes into consideration the education of individuals and others factors that can influence their progress and performance.

Equity is “absolutely key” when it comes to developing graduates and apprentices, according to Stacy Morris, head of early career development at KPMG. “It needs to be front and center and inform absolutely every decision we make, without fail,” she says. “We must be fair; we have to be consistent and make sure that individuals are treated as individuals, but absolutely the same in terms of how we apply policies and what we do in governance and how we give opportunities, and that’s absolutely critical.”

Understand different experiences and skill levels

Morris says his team recognizes the difference in academic training between the leaving and graduating cohorts, and so they are taking steps to ensure any potential skills gaps are addressed by the company and the ACA. “It’s not that they’re taught different things – it’s how they’re taught, when they’re taught, how often they’re taught, how it’s delivered, what the environment is like. This is where you need to be mindful to ensure that individuals get the most out of their study program so that they can succeed in the environment in which we have them.

Emma Noble, Senior Manager of KPMG’s new apprenticeship program, echoes this. She says graduates and apprentices are mixed when they are at equivalent stages in their ACA journey – and subsequent support is appropriately matched. KPMG assigns performance managers, performance managers and “buddies” to each apprentice.

Holly Younger, treasury accountant at airline easyJet, says the accountancy industry should recognize that those entering apprenticeships directly after school have not had the same experiences as university graduates. She says managers can’t assume apprentices don’t need extra support or help. “When people make assumptions about someone, that’s the first step to making someone feel left out, and very often it can just be assuming that they’re competent to do something without any support, or that he has the capacity in his life to take on more work.

Working in audit during her apprenticeship meant spending months away from home and the office working with client companies, says Younger, adding that it can come more easily from college graduates than apprentices, and companies should offer support. to treat everyone fairly. “The impact this has on an 18-year-old is probably different than someone in their mid-to-late twenties who has been absent. [from home] already a lot. »

Two paths – apprentices versus graduates

Whether or not someone decides to enter the ACA qualification as an apprentice or a graduate is usually based on their preference for on-the-job learning or an academic approach. Some people gravitate towards the graduate path because it can give them the chance to try out various backgrounds and branches of accountancy, while others may prefer to dive right into the world of work and take a first step. sooner towards an independent income. Also, college isn’t always a feasible option, given the cost of a degree and the loss of income while you study.

Krita Shah has chosen the path of learning. She completed her A levels last year and is now an FSO Insurance Associate at EY. “When I was back in sixth grade, my school was very much like ‘Oxbridge and the University’ from the start,” says Shah. “Everyone was encouraged to apply through UCAS, but what I really wanted was something practical, where I could apply all the theory and everything I studied in reality. [business] rather than just continuing with exams and essay writing.

“I really wanted to get into the working world where I could have that experience, and I couldn’t find college degrees that I liked where I could also get hands-on experience that suited all my needs. I know lots of graduates who are so glad they went to college because they wanted it. [educational] experience or they learned to do another subject before entering the world of chartered accountancy. I just preferred to enter the world of work right away. It was very difficult at first – I was new, there were exams, new people, I left home. But now that I’ve acclimatized, I don’t regret having chosen apprenticeship.

Shah says apprentices and graduates – who are treated the same – learn from each other despite their different backgrounds in the profession. Apprentices, she adds, benefit from fellow graduates, who have a lot of exam experience, while Shah can support graduates who lack some of the more practical job skills.

Without a doubt, the support that Shah and his fellow apprentices receive is essential. She says EY offers help “before I even need to ask for it” and that her superiors recognize that apprentices are new to the world of work, having just left school. Each person is assigned an advisor who is the first point of contact for general issues, including exam or college difficulties. And they also have a learning coach who can answer any questions or issues related to learning. This equitable support offered to apprentices takes into account the fact that their path may be different from that of graduates.

Entering the profession as a graduate

For Christopher Sutcliffe, Homes Tax Manager at Legal & General, who took the academic route to the ACA, the support was also a huge factor in making his experience a positive one. He was in his second year at university when he switched from a sports license to a master’s degree in finance. In September 2017, he joined Legal & General’s finance graduate program because the firm’s philosophy appealed to him and he preferred the more intimate environment that a small class – six graduates – offered.

“If you had asked me at university if I would be a tax professional in five years, the answer would have been: absolutely not. During his Masters, he says, “I think the exposure to taxation made me realize that I liked the role of taxation in the real world. That was part of the reason I wanted to go the graduate school route – to explore my options.

Sutcliffe appreciates the firm’s emphasis on progression and development and says graduates, regardless of background, are treated equally. Each of them is assigned a buddy who has participated in the graduate program within the past 12 months, so they can relate to what the younger members of the team are going through. Even the graduating managers are former interns, which Sutcliffe says “keeps the circle of support going.” They can attend regular training sessions, and now that COVID-19 restrictions are gone, social events have been added to the calendar. Sutcliffe says the team will be taking in apprentices this year and they will be treated as part of the cohort and fully supported.

Regardless of their background and experience, apprentices and graduates make the decision to take a particular path to public accounting based on multiple factors, including finances, social and educational background, and even their life stage. , because not all graduates and apprentices are young. It is therefore crucial not to make assumptions about a person’s skills and experience based on how they acquired the ACA qualifications.

Being fully aware of any potential differences between the experiences and backgrounds of apprentices and graduates is a step in the right direction towards equity. Morris summarizes: “For us as a company it is absolutely paramount that fairness must guide every decision we make and it is essential to [our graduates and apprentices] choose us, stay here and succeed here.