Trainee ForumSoon after I first joined the office at the annual jamboree I was introduced to a ‘student rep’. My initial thought was one of intrigue as I immediately had visions of a strange hybrid between a holiday ‘rep’ and flashbacks of my student days many moons ago. After an interesting conversation I quickly appreciated the true extent of the role and the irrelevance of my initial vision.

A key component of any successful office environment is that of communication: the ability for all levels of an organisation to be connected and aware of the key goings on. Within the NAO there are many different levels and specialisms which means disseminating a message to all is a challenge that the NAO like any other large organisation faces. One of the effective platforms used to bridge these levels is the Trainee Forum and is something which I think is one of the key building blocks to cohesiveness in our office.

Each graduate intake is afforded one representative (the aforementioned ‘student rep’) to take forward any key messages (both positive and negative) on their behalf to the quarterly Trainee Forum meeting. In the autumn of each year, all trainees can put forward a short manifesto outlining why they think they would be effective as the representative for their intake before a voting process is held to elect them. Whilst some go for Boris Johnson-esque humour, others opt for Churchilian passion to garner support. Surprisingly using neither of these approaches, I was elected in my second year and am now taking forward the role as I move into my final year as a trainee too.

The quarterly forum brings together all of the representatives from each of the trainee grades (AA1-3, ATT and Apprentices) and members of senior management such as the Director of HR, Director General and the QPRT (Qualified Person Responsible for Training – a term which you’ll quickly become familiar with as an ICAEW member!) amongst others. Having the attention of such a senior group of management is quite a daunting prospect and it certainly keeps you on your toes!

Each representative will collate all the issues or queries raised by their respective intakes and take them forward for discussion at the forum. These may be college related, work related, facilities related or anything else which the trainees would like escalated and brought to the management’s attention. Often our discussions can get quite intense as you are tasked with presenting an issue raised by one of your contemporaries, being quizzed about the finer details by management and then justifying its significance. For instance, during our most recent forum in December last year we sought increased clarity over the appraisal moderation process which has led to us now planning an open forum between my intake and senior management: something which will be of real value for everyone involved.

The Trainee Forum really is a great opportunity to discuss and challenge management with emerging developments and test out your skills of persuasion. Management also tell us it’s extremely valuable for them to be made aware of themes cropping up across the trainee grades in the office and iron out any issues.

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