We know that this blog is mainly for those of you interested in our graduate scheme. However, you don’t have to go to university to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant – you can also join us straight from school. The NAO graduate blog has invited Alex Pullen, one of our School Leaver Scheme participants, to tell us more about the scheme and what made him join it. P.S.: Our 2014 scheme is currently open for applications (deadline: 31 March).

TrainingLife choices are always somewhat of a challenge and even now I’m still asked why I didn’t go to university. I often still query my choice with lots of ‘what-ifs’, knowing of my friends enjoying life away from home. However, at the end of a hectic week of work and continuous sport, I get to relax and realise that actually I made the perfect choice for me. I’m earning, getting trained into a useful profession and I can still visit my friends at university most weekends to join in with the festivities.

Starting at the NAO felt like a great way to get myself a foot on the ladder in the current job market, a personal development to become more mature and take on responsibility. When choosing the School Leaver Scheme over university the thought of a life-long debt crossed my mind. However, in the end this was not a deciding factor for me. I really enjoy being in London and the opportunities nearby, a sense of moving up in the world and really directing where my future was going rather than uncertainty. Mostly I relish in being able to get ahead of the game by starting work and getting qualified at the same time. Schemes like this are becoming more popular as employers realise the potential in those leaving A-Levels. With the NAO scheme offering a competitive salary and plenty of training opportunities, it is definitely a great option for those not going to university.

So far my first year at the NAO has been eventful. From being away on audit, visiting places like Leeds and parts of central London, to juggling personal life and exam revision. All-in-all I have enjoyed my time so far, though some things I found tough, I now feel completely at home in the office and with the way it works. The NAO is a genuinely friendly place and I enjoy working on my area of Health. Having been on a few audits already I have gained more understanding of interviewing, testing, documenting and client communication. I also noticed a big jump in my proficiency of using software. These have all increased my confidence in completing work and meeting with clients and has even affected me at home in the same way.

With the scheme itself we have completed three courses in college having taken two exams with the next one coming up in a few weeks time. The scheme is a 5-year programme beginning with the CFAB (Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business) course and continuing on to ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant). College can be challenging at a high pace but if you put in the effort it’s more than possible to pass the exams. To apply for the scheme you will need 300 UCAS points (or equivalent) and 5 GSCEs at A*-C (including Maths and English). The first stage will consist of a numerical reasoning test before visiting the office for initial interview and group assessment day. Be sure to have an input in as much as you can on the assessment day to stand out from the crowd.

So you think you’ve got what it takes? Get online and apply now as applications are open. A word of advice, research into the scheme and understand what is expected of you throughout the interview process and starting work. This will give you a great head start over all those who do not. Maybe even consider looking at a report the NAO has produced that you may find interesting like a VFM (value for money) study. This will definitely give you an idea as to what you could be part of at the NAO.

For all those applying, good luck! : )

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