School Leaver Programme Experience: Mazars Interviews

Why did you choose to follow the school leaver programme route when you finished at school?

The school leaver programme option seemed to make far more sense to me than university.  I have always had a good work ethic so when I saw the opportunity to earn while I learn I grasped it with both hands.

Was accountancy always a career you had an interest in?

From a very young age I developed a love for business. The finance team of any business is arguably the most important part of the team.  Therefore  learning about how the finance team of different companies operate gives you a wide understanding of how the business industry works. My cousin took the same route when he was my age, I saw how well he was doing for himself and it became a natural path for me to follow.

Could you take us through what you did when you left school (in terms of applications, things that helped you decide which route to take etc.)?

On a frequent basis my school held careers days.  During one of these days we had a session where we were encouraged to apply for apprenticeships online.  I won a Kaplan Financial Scholarship which means that all of my expenses for becoming a chartered accountant have been paid for by Kaplan.

I was chosen from a field of 150 applicants as the Scholar for London and the South East for 2012. This was just the beginning of my journey to Mazars.

After winning my scholarship I was put in touch with many accountancy firms, but Mazars was the most appealing to me. I felt it offered the greatest opportunities for me to progress as an accountant.

The recruitment process consisted of an online application, online numerical and literacy tests, a preliminary interview with a HR representative and an assessment day. The assessment day involved a presentation (on a topic of my choice), an in tray test, a team activity, a partner interview and a tour of the office.

I was fortunate enough to be offered the job – but this did not come from sitting back and hoping for the best!  Days of revision went into the two online tests and weeks of preparation went into the interviews and assessment day as a whole. My philosophy is ‘fail to prepare and prepare to fail’.

What stood out to you about the Mazars school leaver programme?

Mazars are such a well recognised firm around the world with fantastic opportunities to progress internally. As Mazars is such a large company it means that they can attract some of the biggest firms in the industry, so I have been fortunate enough to work on clients such as AXA since joining them.

One thing that really attracted me to Mazars was the fact that they treat each year’s intake equally, no matter what programme you’re on, so as a school leaver I am taking a very similar route to graduates and progressing at the same rate.

You are also not limited to one sector of accountancy. I am in the Insurance Audit team yet I have also carried out work for Corporate Finance and Financial Planning. This has  given me an insight into other areas of business I may want to join once qualified.

Could you tell us about the Mazars school leaver programme?

The Mazars school leaver scheme provides the opportunity to study for the AAT qualification whilst you earn and gain valuable work experience in the Mazars offices. The AAT qualification last for two to four years depending on what level you join at and how you are being funded; whether that be by the government scheme or by the firm that employees you.

The programme gives you a very good knowledge of accounting and how a business operates on a day-to-day basis. Some of the topics I have studied already involve double entry bookkeeping, budgeting and costing, which have all aided me in my development at Mazars.

Once I have completed the AAT I will be a qualified accountant and also have the opportunity to complete the ACA (lasting two years), which will mean I will be a fully qualified Chartered Accountant.

How do you find the London office?

The London office is, in one word, brilliant! We are located in the heart of the city which gives us excellent links to many of our top clients and a buzzing atmosphere.  Being the largest office in the UK means we are able to take in the largest amount of graduates/school leavers each year. This was very nice for me as it meant that I joined as part of a year group, so I made plenty of friends instantly.

The employees here in London really make the company an enjoyable place to work. The managers and partners are a pleasure to work for and are more than willing to help with any queries or questions, no matter how silly they may be!

Why is it important to earn the AAT qualification?

The AAT is equivalent to a degree in accountancy and provides you with a solid foundation knowledge of accounting. Doing this qualification as part of a school leaver programme means that not only do you gain tuition in accountancy, you also get valuable work experience within an accountancy firm which will be vital later on in your career.

What you also have to remember is that with the AAT you are not just limited to accountancy. It is such a well recognised qualification that it opens doors to all sorts of financial services sectors  such as banking, insurance and investments.

How does a typical day (or week if you have different places to be on different days) look for you on the programme?

No day or week is the same.  During busy season (January-March) I am booked on a variety of insurance clients completing year-end audits. However, when I am in the office I get a wide range of different pieces of work from the various departments within Mazars.  AAT days vary depending on the college but each module ranges from two to six days at college and these tend to be once a week.

Is it difficult to work and study simultaneously? What kind of support do you get at Mazars?

To be honest it is not as bad as people may think, however you must not take it for granted as you still need to put the effort in to get the most out of it. During your time when you’re not at college you can do whatever you please, but it is important to get your head down and work hard when you are at college.

Mazars really are fantastic with the support they give me.  Both my line manager and appraisal manager always encourage me when necessary and praise me when I have passed certain exams. If I ever have any accounting questions I feel comfortable to ask anyone for help as they are more than willing to advise.

Will there be more opportunities with Mazars once you’ve finished the programme?

When I qualify at Mazars the world literally is my oyster.  I have the option to stay on in the audit section and progress through the ranks.  I can diversify into a different service that Mazars provide, potentially financial planning or corporate finance. There is also the opportunity to do a secondment to one of our international offices. Bermuda and Singapore are two that look very appealing at the moment!

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