CHARTERED ACCOUNTANCY TRAINING SCHEME

Our highly successful ACA professional training scheme for graduates and school leavers will equip you with the Chartered Accountancy qualification and membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.  You will have the opportunity to make a real difference to our huge range of clients and to the nation and its citizens. You will develop the skills to equip you for a fantastic career.

Be part of a much bigger picture at the NAO.

ABOUT US

Our position is unique, and our work is extraordinarily influential. Independent of government, we scrutinise public spending for Parliament and investigate major government projects and programmes. This means we work for, and for the good of, all citizens in our country. We help our economy and society work better – supporting and enabling improvements in financial management and the way vital public services are delivered right across the public sector to millions of people every day.  For you, this means challenging and varied work that has real benefit for the nation.

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THE SCHEME

Our ACA professional training scheme supports you right through to qualify as a Chartered Accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). You can join the scheme through one of two entry routes:

As a Graduate: with a 2.1 degree or better in any subject (achieved or expected). This route takes 3 years through to ICAEW membership.

As a School Leaver: with 3 good A levels (or equivalent) in any subjects. This route takes up to 5 years through to ICAEW membership.

More details of the entry requirements are given under the ‘Apply’ section.

Our graduates and school leavers come from a range of backgrounds and have studied the full spectrum of subjects including arts, social sciences, sciences and engineering – not just maths! Our work benefits from different perspectives that people from different backgrounds bring. Whether you join us as a graduate or as a school leaver you will benefit from a highly successful and well supported scheme designed to help you succeed all the way.

We will provide you with:-

  • First-class tuition with a high quality external professional training provider
  • 25 weeks’ paid study leave in block release to maximise your success
  • Exam pass rates that are well above the national average
  • A fully funded accountancy qualification and professional membership subscriptions (ICAEW)
  • Opportunities to develop a wide range of technical and professional as well as management and leadership skills to equip you for a fantastic career
  • Work in teams with other colleagues committed to collaboration, quality, and success
  • An excellent system of support from NAO colleagues all the way through
  • An NAO ‘buddy’ from our more experienced trainees, who will be on hand to answer
    any questions you have during those first few months
  • Relevant and varied work experience with challenges you can rise to and learn from
  • Opportunities to take responsibility early in your career
  • First-class
    tuition

  • 25 weeks'
    study leave

  • Above-average
    pass rates

  • Relevant, varied
    work experience

Education

In response to our report on apprenticeships the Department for Education developed a comprehensive set of performance measures, including the qualification’s impact on earnings potential and uptake by people from disadvantaged backgrounds, to ensure value for money is being achieved.

Culture and media

We found that the BBC’s approach to managing its workforce had progressed with improved oversight and better value for money achieved. Looking forward, the head of the NAO, Sir Amyas Morse said “the scale of the BBC’s efficiency agenda in the coming years is considerable, and the BBC will need to monitor workforce changes carefully to build on the recent progress it has made”.

Energy

Our work for the Public Accounts Committee has drawn extensively on our financial audit work and has led to increased transparency in the costs borne by electricity bill-payers, as well as the challenges and financial risks in the Hinkley Point C contract.

Defence

Our work on service family accommodation for the Public Accounts Committee contributed to significant improvements in contractor performance and better living standards for service families

Treasury

The Whole of Government Accounts gives an overall picture of the financial position of the whole UK public sector. Our financial auditors have worked with Treasury to improve the reliability of these accounts which enable decision makers to make more informed decisions and support better accountability and transparency. Our financial auditors have developed an innovative interactive visualisation of the data to provide an accessible snapshot of UK finances.

International Development

We investigated the key assumptions in the Department for International Development’s decision to fund an airport on the island of St Helena, and ongoing cost implications after its opening was delayed by planes being unable to land there due to weather conditions.

Children and families

Kids Company, a children’s charity which had received £46m in funding, closed a week after the Government gave it £3m to stay open. Our investigation made headlines after finding that it had benefited from having received twice the funding of other children’s charities.

Your development and career

We’ll give you everything you need to rise to challenges and be at your best, including the time and support you need to get your ACA qualification, with generous paid study leave and support.

Our learning and development offering is excellent, combining: formal training courses on aspects of accounting and auditing as well as management and leadership skills; learning through our work; and learning from other colleagues.

Our annual LearnFest week combines presentations, workshops and seminars on a whole host of topics (you could also deliver one if you wish).

Looking further ahead we run talent programmes which identify, support and develop those with the potential to reach our most senior levels.

The more you develop, the more options will open up for you in terms of career development and progression. All across the NAO you’ll find people in leadership positions who started with us as trainees.

All this is within the context of a friendly, supportive and highly professional organisation with clear values which are: Independent, Authoritative, Collaborative and Fair.

To hear first hand accounts of what it’s like to be a trainee at the NAO, please refer to our trainee blog.

YOUR REWARDS

Along with work that just means more, you’ll benefit from a sociable, collaborative working culture, with support from others who have been there before you.

APPLY

What we’re looking for

Both our Graduate and School Leaver Trainees need to meet the following common criteria:

  • 300 UCAS points or equivalent from your top 3- A Level grades (or equivalent). General Studies does not count. If you have 280 UCAS points (or equivalent) you may be eligible to apply based on the context of your educational and personal circumstances – please email HRServiceDesk@nao.gsi.gov.uk for further details.
  • Please note from 2017 onwards the UCAS Tariff points are changing, you will require a minimum of 120 UCAS points or equivalent from your top three A level grades (or equivalent).
  • You must be a UK, Commonwealth, EEA or Swiss national to comply with Civil Service nationality rules and must hold a valid work permit. We are not able to sponsor work visas.

For our graduate scheme only:

  • To join the Graduate scheme you will also have, or expect to have, a 2.1 degree or better in any subject.

Alongside your academic credentials, we’ll assess some of the key competencies that you’ll need to demonstrate in order to be a successful Graduate or School Leave Trainee at the NAO.

These competencies are assessed throughout the application process, so it’s a good idea to start familiarising yourself with them. Think about how you may have demonstrated the desired behaviours in your previous experience, such as part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, or school/ University assignments.

The competencies, and a short description of each, are listed below. Click on the headings to read the full description.

Analyses Data to Draw Sound Conclusions

This competency is about being able to gather and quickly absorb large amounts of information from a variety of sources as well as identifying patterns and trends in data and information. You will need to demonstrate that not only will you be able ask clients the right questions in order to get the relevant information, but that you can present conclusions in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

Demonstrates Sound Judgement

A successful auditor at the NAO does not take things at face value and needs to maintain objectivity and professional skepticism when making decisions. You will need to demonstrate that you can distinguish between the important and minor issues. It is also important to be able to demonstrate sound judgement by comparing what you would logically expect to the actual evidence. This competency is also about being able to identify risk areas in a client’s organisation and take steps to mitigate them.

Communicates Effectively With Others

To be a successful auditor your communication skills will be as important as your ability to analyse the data. You will need to demonstrate that you can communicate confidently at all levels, using clear and appropriate language both orally and in writing, backing up your ideas with evidence. Communicating effectively is about active listening; you will need to demonstrate the potential to actively listen to clients’ and team members’ opinions and needs and respond accordingly.

Demonstrates Enthusiasm, Initiative and Drive

Studying for your accountancy qualification whilst working full time will, at times, be very challenging. We therefore require trainees who can demonstrate that they have the drive and commitment to deal with this challenge. As a trainee at the NAO, you will be involved in delivering all aspects of our work from the very start, albeit with the appropriate levels of support and guidance. We are therefore looking for people who are able to work without close supervision and are able to present potential solutions as well as problems. You’ll also be passionate about your own development and will be pro-active in taking ownership for it

Builds and Maintains Effective Team Relationships

We’re looking for team players who will support peers and team members by offering help and encouraging participation and contribution. At the same time you’ll be pro-active in seeking support from others when necessary. Self-aware, you’ll effectively manage your impact on other team members and will be adaptable to change in working with different teams, in different environments.

Builds and Maintain Effective Client Relationships

Building and maintaining effective client relationships are vital if we are to deliver lasting improvements in public service delivery. You’ll therefore need to demonstrate that you can communicate clearly and openly with clients. You also need to be able to build rapport quickly by demonstrating a friendly and professional approach being assertive and confident in a non confrontational way when the situation demands it. Building and maintaining effective client relationships are vital if we are to deliver lasting improvements in public service delivery. You’ll therefore need to demonstrate that you can communicate clearly and openly with clients. You also need to be able to build rapport quickly by demonstrating a friendly and professional approach being assertive and confident in a non confrontational way when the situation demands it.

Plans and Organises Workload to Deliver High Quality Work to Deadline

This competency is all about your ability to prioritise work sensibly and logically by understanding how long tasks will take, how tasks fit together and what information is required. In forming your approach to tasks you will apply your learning from previous experience. Not easily distracted from the task at hand, you deal with issues promptly so that they do not impact on the deadline. When set backs and obstacles do arise, you will have the resilience to maintain your focus and pace.

Understands the Bigger Picture

This competency is all about your understanding of how wider issues affect the NAO’s work. We need people who will seek to understand how our client organisations work, and will use this knowledge to drive their approach. Similarly you will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the NAO’s objectives and be able to articulate how you will help contribute towards helping achieve them.

THE PROCESS

Follow our 4-stage application process for Graduates and School Leavers.

STAGE 01 – ONLINE APPLICATION

Upon submitting your online application, and provided you have met all of our minimum requirements, you’ll be invited to complete an online numerical test.

You don’t need to be a mathematician to succeed in this, it’s purpose is to show us how you work with data, and make decisions using the kind of numerical information you might use when working here.

Please note: In order to maintain fairness, we reserve the right to re-test candidates who reach the assessment centre stage of the process when they visit our offices.

TIP: We recommend you do at least one practice numerical reasoning test first before completing the test. This will give you a feel for the types of questions asked and how long they will take you to answer. It’s a great way to prepare, helping you relax and perform to the best of your ability.

Upon successful completion of the online numerical test, you’ll be invited to complete 4 competency based questions. These questions will assess you against our 8 competencies (set out above) and we’ll be looking for specific examples of when you have demonstrated them.

Examples could be from (but are not limited to) your time at university/school, work experience such as part-time jobs at school or university, or any extracurricular activities you’ve been involved in.

TIP: Each question has a 250-word limit, allowing you to provide detailed examples. We don’t have a minimum word limit, but answers which are very short are unlikely to demonstrate the behaviour we are looking for in sufficient detail, so be sure to write a reasonable amount.

Please note: all 4 competency based questions carry equal marks. We are always impressed by people who are enthusiastic about the work of the NAO and how they feel they can contribute to it, so we would encourage you to do some research and think about how you picture yourself working with us.

Once completed, your answers are marked by our trained screeners. If you meet the minimum mark required, you will be progressed to Stage 2.

We aim to contact you within three weeks of your competency submission to tell you if you’re proceeding to Stage 2. We will let you know if your application has been unsuccessful, however due to the large number of applications we receive, we’re unable to provide specific feedback on applications that are not put through to the next stage.

STAGE 02 – THE INTERVIEW

Those who successfully complete the on-line application form and numerical reasoning test and have met our initial criteria, will be invited to a Stage 2 assessment. This involves a 30-45 minutes competency-based telephone interview, and the opportunity to ask your questions about the scheme.

TIP: You may find it helpful to review some tips on preparing for telephone interviews.

STAGE 03 – ASSESSMENT CENTRE

If you’re successful at Stage 2 then you’ll be invited to the final stage of the process, which will include a number of individual and group exercises, as well as an interview, all assessed against the NAO’s 8 competencies (listed above). The assessment centre will last a day, but we’ll provide you with lunch and refreshments. You’ll also have the opportunity to speak to some of our current trainees and to ask any questions you might have.

TIP: Our Graduate Blog has plenty of valuable insights which will help you throughout the application process, but by clicking here you will be able to get hints and tips on our assessment centre from people who were successful in it so be sure to take a look!

STAGE 04 – OFFER

Offers are conditional on a number of pre-employment checks including: security vetting and verification of your academic grades entered on your application. You will be notified shortly after the assessment centre as to whether or not you have been successful.

Equal Opportunities and diversity

The NAO is an equal opportunities employer. We aim to reflect the diversity of the public we serve. We are committed to a fair and objective selection process free from discrimination on the basis of the following characteristics: disability, age, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. Visit our main website to find out more about our commitment to diversity and equal opportunities.

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