Aspiring accountants gained an invaluable insight into the career of the President of the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and the benefits of joining the industry body.

Heather Hill shared her experience of working in the sector and her role at AAT with students and apprentices at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

AAT is the leading professional membership body for accounting technicians with 125,000 members and students worldwide. AAT is also an awarding organisation that is recognised globally as being the gold standard for anyone wanting to gain technical accounting skills.

Heather studied for BTEC National Certificate in Business and Finance and then an AAT Level 4 qualification while working in local government finance, which allowed her to gain full AAT membership.

She said: “It wasn’t easy at times. I was grateful for the support of my tutors who dedicated their time and effort to ensure I understood and learned the syllabus, as I know your tutors do for you.”

Heather later moved to Wiltshire and set up her own accountancy practice, which she ran for 24 years providing services to sole traders, companies, partnerships, charities and other organisations.

During this time, she studied for her Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) qualifications to expand the services she could offer her clients.

Heather, who has been a member of the AAT for more than 30 years, joined her local branch of the association and is now a Fellow member of both the AAT and ATT.

Joining the AAT branch gave her the opportunity to network, share experiences and gain experience from other like-minded professionals while continuing to develop her skills.

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“Branch meetings provide opportunities to learn about other areas you may want to specialise in and to receive valuable continuing professional development to update our existing knowledge and skills. They also enable you to receive support from others who have already developed their careers further, such as attaining chartered accountant status,” she said.

Heather, who was previously chair of the Swindon branch, joined AAT Council in 2016, and is now Chair of the Council and is a member of the Management Board, Nominations and Governance Board and Remuneration Board. She was elected Vice President of AAT in September 2020 and became President of AAT a year later.

She said: “AAT is working hard to create an inclusive community, to help people to get a start in our great profession, and to then support them throughout their career. I hope you will progress your studies and become a member of AAT.

“AAT is not just a valuable qualification, it is a community of people who support one another and who share the same ethos.”

Wishing students and apprentices good luck with their studies, Heather added: “Don’t regard setbacks as failures, they are all learning opportunities and building blocks to a better future.  Believe in yourself and you will achieve your goals.”

Business students capitalise on private equity firm Primera visit

Business students at CONEL invested in their future when they visited global private equity firm Primera.

The group, who are studying for a Business Level 3 Diploma, were given an insight into business and investment at the company’s UK office in Pall Mall.

They heard about the growth of the private equity market, how Primera operates, the markets it invests in and how it makes decisions on acquisitions, while also learning about fund management and investor relations.

The students also took part in a practical workshop where they had to look at the performance of three different businesses and decide which company to buy.

Employees at the company then shared their career journeys and took questions from the students on career choices and gave them advice and guidance.

The visit was arranged by Career Ready, a charity which works with educators and employers to prepare young people for work and help them fulfil their potential.

Kareen Lawrence, Regional Account Manager at AAT, also shared more about how becoming an AAT member demonstrates a commitment to exceptionally high standards and ethics in accounting, as well as CPD opportunities available for AAT qualified bookkeepers and members.

This included using the AAT’s Knowledge Hub to keep updated on the sector including articles, podcasts and webinars, as well as it’s e-learning platform, employability advice and other events.

Riccardo Maserati, 22, and Leah Hughes, 23, have both completed an Accounting Level 3 Apprenticeship with CONEL this year and are looking to continue their studies.

Riccardo, who is taking his apprenticeship with The Scout Association, said: “I enjoy the managerial side of accounting like how to make more profit and how to cut your cost them kind of things. After my level three I will look to do my ACCA to try and get involved more in manager accounting but apart from that I’m quite open with my future.

“Meeting and hearing from a senior face behind the AAT was really inspiring. I’m going to use the AAT website a bit more to my advantage for my next exams.”

Leah, who is training at recruitment firm NP Group, said: “I learnt a lot more about the AAT’s networking events and the resources on their website, which will help with my further studies and to eventually become a chartered accountant.

“I started my apprenticeship because I needed to work. It was the perfect opportunity to earn money and get a qualification. The college helped prepare me for my interview and I’ve really liked the teachers I’ve had. They take the time to explain everything really well and are always there if I needed any advice.”

CONEL’s Accounting courses and apprenticeships from Levels 2-4 including a 14-week AAT Level 2 Pre-apprenticeship that leads to a full AAT Level 3 Apprenticeship, with apprentices spending four days a week training in a paid job and one day studying.

Jacqueline Dyett, Head of School for Business, Accounting and Travel and Tourism, said: “It was wonderful having Heather visit CONEL and talk to our students and apprentices. It gave them the chance to put a face to the qualification they are studying and hear about Heather’s inspiring journey from similar beginnings to where she is now, as well as hearing about the benefits of the AAT.

“It was a good opportunity for them to realise the significance of the AAT and what lies ahead for them along with giving them that added impetus to keep going as the qualifications get tougher and to get into their future careers.”

If you are good with numbers and problem-solving, a career in accounting could be for you. At CONEL we work with top employers to give you the skills and experience needed to work in this huge sector. Apply for courses here and apprenticeships here.

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