Kaplan has been at the forefront of accountancy training and assessment for almost 80 years, operating in over 30 countries. One of the leading education providers in the world, it has championed education training and development for over three million individuals and businesses around the globe and trains around 40,000 students on its programmes each year.
The largest apprenticeship provider in the financial sector and one of the five largest apprenticeship providers in the UK, Kaplan trains over 10,000 apprentices every year. It’s a position it takes very seriously, acknowledging that what it does, influences the financial services training market. As the leader in its field, Kaplan counts 66 of the FTSE 100 companies as clients for its training programmes and has a team of over 200 qualified and expert tutors delivering top-rated courses across the UK.
Kaplan began working with WorldSkills UK in 2019 as an investment competition partner. Since then, the relationship has deepened. Says Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship Partnership Director:
Involvement with WorldSkills UK includes and goes beyond running a high-quality Accountancy Technician Competition to engage young people. We started out wanting to develop a competition and are now having a much wider discussion about excellence, quality and equity, diversity and inclusion. The competition is a really key part of this.
“Through this relationship we want to drive up aspiration for accountancy training for everyone, not just Kaplan apprentices and to continue the pursuit of excellence, continually redefining what excellence means. We’re open to working with all training providers whether that’s colleges, commercial training businesses or employers, to get more people to apply for what are really great careers in this industry and for them to push themselves to be the best they can be.
“Kaplan’s mission is to open up the accountancy profession to all sections of society. Interestingly, this year we saw a high level of applicants from the devolved nations, while the North of England has been under-represented and from where we’d like to see more applicants. Through the relationship with WorldSkills UK we’ve been in touch with Welsh universities and Scottish colleges that we would never have had contact with and we’ve been discussing excellence with them and what makes a great accountancy trainee. In short, we’ve been able to share information and views with other organisations that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.”
Kaplan also provides support for educators, having produced materials with us. It also works with bodies like the Association of Accountancy Technicians (AAT) to provide lesson plan materials for schools, capturing the imagination of students and outlining some of the career pathways available.
In 2019 Kaplan partnered with us to host a pilot demonstration accountancy competition and now we are working together to deliver a fully-developed WorldSkills UK Accountancy Technician Competition. This team competition, which is aimed at apprentices, is designed to reflect the role of an accountant and demonstrate the standards that are expected in the world of finance. Says Richard:
We know that there are incredibly talented accounting and finance apprentices and students at Kaplan and other providers throughout the UK, so this is a perfect opportunity for them to hone their skills and take part in training sessions and compete with their peers right across the UK.
In 2019 the competition was designed for level five apprentices; it is now positioned at level three in order to make it more open and attract younger applicants, including those from more diverse backgrounds who might be studying full-time at college, as well as those doing an apprenticeship. Says Richard:
“Put simply, we want to encourage more young people to not only apply for accountancy careers but also get them to raise their aspirations. For those with talent and commitment there are exciting career choices to be made across all sectors from accountancy practices to engineering, public services like the NHS and Local Authorities right through commercial sectors to charity and not for profit organisations. The variety is limitless.”
He believes there are ample opportunities to reach the highest levels of management, “The majority of CEOs in the UK have accountancy qualifications and as one of the oldest professions, careers and roles change in line with developments in technology. This is where apprenticeships can help as you learn about the technology that you need to do the job. We don’t see a day when accountants won’t be needed and accountancy can take someone as far as they want to go.
“Apprentices might find a job specialising in audit, or in tax, or in producing management accounts. Entry level apprentices might work in payroll, or processing payments. These roles give a very good insight into how an organisation manages its finances.”
As part of maintaining relevancy between the accountancy profession and teaching and training, Kaplan will be working with professional qualification bodies to ensure that the competition is recognised and the content is fair and equitable, says Richard, “In 2019 when we ran the pilot we worked with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) to validate the programme. This year we will continue to work with professional bodies to ensure the competition has a standing and status.
“We’ve also been working with a group of employers, large accountancy practices and finance companies to ensure that the content of the competition is based on the real-life skills they’re looking for. We’ve specifically designed the competition to be entered by teams rather than single practitioners because employers want accountants who can work as part of a team and can communicate financial information as well as process it.”
Currently, the Accounting Technician Competition is being run in the UK only, but Richard is keen to see it developed into an international competition and run through the WorldSkills global network to over 80 countries, “Generally, accountancy in the UK is well-recognised and valued in the training standards and quality worlds. It would be great to see an international competition because I think the UK would do really well.”
Kaplan will join us in building awareness for the competition among as many young people as possible and will promote via their centres located throughout the UK, their clients and professional bodies, to ensure as many young people as possible from a wide audience base, have the chance to compete and play an active role in creating and maintaining a highly-skilled workforce of young accountancy professionals . We are pleased that the relationship between Kaplan and ourselves is symbiotic and we look forward to continuing working together to bring the evolving world of accountancy into focus for young people considering their career options.