Abby Smith joined UNW in November 2018 as a payroll apprentice. As part of our scheme, she is currently working towards her qualification in Level 3 Business Administration.

Payroll Apprentice, Level 3 Business Administration

What did you do before joining UNW’s apprenticeship scheme?

I had just completed sixth form. I was studying nothing related to finance – English Literature, Health and Social, and Philosophy and Ethics.

Why did you choose to do an apprenticeship instead of going to university?

I was unsure of what I wanted to do, really. Because I was so uncertain, I didn’t think going into a degree was the best idea, so I started looking at my other options and came to apprenticeships. It was ideal for me: I didn’t want to just go into a full-time job, I still wanted some aspect of learning, which I get through the coursework and exam side of things. I also liked that it would be more practical experience as well, which I found beneficial, as opposed to just studying theory at university. And I get to earn money and further my education at the same time!

Were you always interested in a career in finance?

As my A levels were so unrelated to finance, it wasn’t something I’d ever thought about. I’ve actually surprised myself at how much I enjoy it – it’s so interesting! I think a lot of people hear the word ‘finance’ and switch off, but being in a position where I get to learn the processes behind people getting paid has been really fascinating.

How have you found the transition from sixth form to joining the scheme at UNW?

To be honest, it’s not been as hard as I thought it would be. My colleagues have been really helpful, and there are times when they’ll let me do my tasks and just shadow me, which gives me the independence to make my own mistakes and learn from them. There are also times that I’ll sit with them and they’ll show me how to do new things. In situations like this, you can often feel like a burden, but you don’t get that vibe at UNW; they’re always happy to teach you and help you learn.

What are your main responsibilities as a payroll apprentice?

Making sure people get paid on time! The role is obviously a lot busier towards the end of the month, since that’s usually when people get paid. I’m regularly working to meet deadlines, communicating with clients, and ensuring that compliance requirements are being met. There’s a big administration side to things too.

Now that you’re 3 months into the scheme, what has been your favourite thing about working for UNW?

In any work experience that I’ve done, I’ve never come across a firm that is as invested in their employees as UNW. They are always making sure everyone is happy, and that they are getting the best out of them – which can be said for how they treat their clients as well. I think people have an image of accountancy firms as “strict” and “corporate:” you come in, you do your job, and you leave. Here, everyone is really nice, from the top down. There’s an open plan office, with the management sitting amongst the employees, and it creates such a great atmosphere. It makes everyone so much more approachable – there’s no-one in UNW that I don’t feel like I could ask for help from, or just chat to.

What advice would you give to someone considering an apprenticeship?

Do it! I know from my experience, I thought that I’d just be thrown into work and that would be it. But it’s so much more than that – you’re essentially getting nurtured into your role, and there are a lot of aspects that people would be used to at school. I think an apprenticeship sets you up for your career a lot better because you’re getting daily practical experience.

Would you recommend UNW’s apprenticeship scheme?

Definitely. You don’t see a lot of what UNW offers at other companies. I know with apprenticeships, people think they’re missing out on the university social life. Here at UNW, I haven’t found that because there’s a whole social aspect to things – there’s even a social committee to encourage everyone to mix together. We have things like summer parties and have the opportunity to take part in volunteering activities, which I think actually pushes you to be more social.

Also, there’s a whole support group of other apprentices who are a similar age to you here – we’re all in the same boat, and we’re always there to help each other if we ever have any questions.

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