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Opportunities after A-levels: Paid apprenticeships widen access to the top professional finance careers

Bright school leavers who choose not to study for a degree can still obtain the prestigious Chartered Institute of Management Accountants professional qualification

15 August 2022, London – Traditionally, 18-year-olds receiving their A-level results are encouraged to head to university. However, this route is not right for all young people. Some may feel that they learn better when they are applying knowledge to real world situations. Others may have personal circumstances, for example the need care for a dependent, which preclude them from spending three years at university.

In the past, the lack of a university degree has limited a person’s career options and chances for upward social mobility. Thankfully this is now changing. Today, young people with ability and aspirations can begin a rewarding career in management accounting without attending university. Employers across the country, from Sky to the London Ambulance Service, offer paid apprenticeships which allow young people to study for a Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) professional qualification while earning a wage.  

This vocational route into management accounting has proved popular. The number of people starting a CIMA Apprenticeship has grown year on year since the current scheme started in 2019. The skills the apprentices learn are valued by the country’s best employers, many of whom offer placements for CIMA apprentices. Of the top 100 apprenticeship employers in a Department for Education league table[i], 43 employed at least one CIMA apprentice.

The apprenticeship route to a CIMA qualification is designed to ensure that the management accountancy profession is open to as many bright young people as wish to take it up. CIMA apprenticeships are available to anyone living in England, who is over the age of 16 and not in full-time education. This includes graduates, school leavers, new employees and people who are already working but looking to upskill.

School leavers can begin a paid apprenticeship to gain a CIMA level 4 qualification. Armed with this they can begin a level 7 apprenticeship (equivalent to a Masters degree), which when completed allows them to use the highly respected Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation. They can earn a wage while studying for these qualifications, and the CGMA designation opens the door to a vast array of high-level careers, across various sectors, in organisations located all over the globe.

CIMA’s UK & Ireland Regional Vice President, Paul Turner, said“Management Accounting opens the door to many fascinating careers all over the world. I’m delighted that through the apprenticeship scheme we are able to offer more young people the chance to pursue this fantastic opportunity. Today, professions are not just the preserve of graduates, everybody has access to fulfil their maximum potential, regardless of their personal circumstances and study preferences.” 

Louise Quinney, Head of Finance People Capability at BAE Systems, said: “A career in finance is exciting, challenging and diverse. Today's finance professional must be highly skilled and flexible enough to quickly adapt to the rapid changes in our environment. Our goal is to develop people who are highly motivated and trained with the right skills to effectively guide our operations so that our business can grow. Our finance apprenticeship scheme provides us with a platform with which to do this.

“Our apprentices are highly regarded and appreciated members of our organisation. By nurturing and growing talent from an early stage, you can have a highly skilled, knowledgeable and loyal workforce for the future. We have many senior leaders who have progressed through the company and started on our apprenticeships schemes.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editor

CIMA offers two accounting apprenticeships to develop real-world skills vital to workplace success in England:

  • Level 4: Professional accounting/tax technician is equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate degree and aligns with the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting.
  • Level 7: Accountancy/taxation professional is equivalent to a master’s degree and the full CIMA Professional Qualification. 

In contrast to schemes run by other accountancy bodies, when an apprentice successfully completes the level seven programme and has accrued the necessary three years’ experience, they are granted fast track to membership, with no additional cost.

[1] The Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers 2022 is the national league table that recognises England’s leading apprenticeship employers for their overall commitment to employing apprentices, their creation of new apprenticeships, the diversity of their new apprentices, and the progression of their apprentices onto further apprenticeships and employment. The annual rankings have been developed by the Department for Education, in partnership with High Fliers Research.