Budding accountants prove Mansfield firms can count on apprentices
When it comes to apprentices, a firm in Mansfield considers attitude, good character and a willingness to fit in to the business ‘family’ just as important as skills.
So no wonder BFS Accountants Ltd, of the Ransom Wood Business Park, are delighted with the latest trio of talented and ambitious youngsters it has acquired from Vision West Nottinghamshire College in the town.
For ten years now, Craig Benford, who owns BFS, has been using the services of the college’s apprenticeship service to support his business.
And 21-year-old Brandon Blore and Liam Larkin, plus 17-year-old Jen Rowton, are currently fitting the bill nicely, helping the company to flourish, as well as proving the worth of the college scheme.
Craig said: “I am passionate about my role, so the people who come to work here need to be passionate too.
"When I look to recruit apprentices, experience isn’t that relevant to me.
"I don’t just take on anyone. I’d rather them fit in as genuine people.
"Apprentices need to be able to communicate, and interact well with clients and the other staff. That’s absolutely essential.
"I class my staff as family, not just employees. I employed these three apprentices because they have great personalities.”
Jen first joined BFS in February last year while on work placement. She enjoyed the experience and was taken on as an apprentice accountant the following month.
She said: “I’ve always been good with numbers, and I achieved a grade A at GCSE.
"I knew I wanted to get my studying done at an early age, so I’ve been very fortunate to work at BFS and have my training on the apprenticeship supported by Craig.
"I get to work on clients’ VAT and payroll, and also in admin. Eventually, I’d like to become a fully-qualified accountant.
"For me , the biggest benefit of being an apprentice is all the great learning on the job.
"I get the knowledge on my college course, but the building blocks are actually putting that learning into practice in the office.
"We’ve had a very busy time since the start of the year, but everyone is so supportive and helpful in answering my questions.”
Brandon joined BFS last September, and his ambition is to get to chartered accountant status.
He said: “Some of the top attributes you need in this sector are being willing to learn, being really good at taking notes and learning things from more senior staff.
"You get so much experience from actually doing the tasks. The more you work with clients, the better practised you become.
"I really enjoy new things, and I get a real buzz from seeing my skills develop and noticing that I am making fewer mistakes.
"I could have gone to university, but the apprenticeship route is definitely the best one to follow in this sector because you are getting experience on the job while studying at college at the same time.
"I’m getting training on the job, and the company’s support and flexibility are great. Craig is brilliant to work for, and supports us all to do our best.”
Liam is the newest apprentice at BFS, having joined in January after working previously at Center Parcs. He said: “The team has made me feel very welcome.
"It’s a happy office and there’s a great mix of hard work and flexibility. We really feel at home.
"So far, I’ve been working on VAT and personal tax. I’ve also done filing, fetched paperwork from clients around the area, taken messages and answered questions over the phone.
"Being an apprentice means you receive on-the-job training, which can really expand your skills. Plus, you’re getting loads of experience that you need to be successful in the future.”
BFS was established in 2010 and has been so successful that it also boasts satellite offices in Chesterfield and Nottingham.
As well as an accountancy and book-keeping outfit, it acts as a business adviser, working with start-up companies and existing firms, and helping them to succeed by turning their ideas into reality.
The firm can even register, set up and maintain workplace pension schemes, as well as advise on all areas of tax
Owner Craig, who was previously a sole trader, added: “All three apprentices seem to be settling in very well. They’re enjoying their roles, and I’ve had great support from the college.
"We’re quite different to most accountancy practices. We aren’t just about the numbers. I like to value my employees and clients as people.
"I enjoy enabling our staff to grow with the company, and we help small businesses to grow as well.
"A lot of the clients referred to me are small, start-up businesses. We guide them and help them to develop.
"By doing the same for apprentices, we’re helping to build better business communities together.
"Our employees spend a lot of time at work. But they also have a degree of flexibility here at BFS, so that they are comfortable while they are at work.”
West Notts College’s apprenticeships and project manager Karen Millward said: “We have worked with BFS for more than four years now, and we are very grateful that Craig sees the benefits from employing apprentices and works hard to encourage them.
"It’s great to see a local business thriving, and passing on the sector’s knowledge to new generations of accountants.
"It’s also good to know that the apprentices are really embracing the training available to them, both from the college and their new colleagues.”