Apprenticeships are a benefit to both apprentices and employers, insists Jason Clark, Operations Manager – PCA at The Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP), a body which provides payroll and pensions support to individuals and businesses. “If a young person is working in your organisation and learning new activities, they tend to challenge your existing programmes and processes,” he says. “As a result, they upskill everyone else in the business.”

For the apprentice, meanwhile, it's an invaluable way to gain hands-on experience in a professional environment. “Young people are earning, learning and doing real work which boosts their CV and their confidence,” says Clark. “The government's commitment to create three million apprenticeships by 2020 shows that these programmes are just as important as university.”

 

Training

 

The CIPP offers a range of qualifications, training courses and events to individuals and organisations within the industry — including apprenticeships in Business Administration, Customer Service, Team Leading and Management, Book-Keeping and Payroll. It's also working with employers to create a number of 'trailblazer' apprenticeships (programmes which set new apprenticeship standards and assessment approaches), including Financial Accounting for Small Businesses which, says Clark, covers “a little bit of everything.”

An apprenticeship is a popular route into the payroll industry for young people, with 50 per cent of CIPP apprentices aged 16-18. The qualifications and experience they need depends on the level of apprenticeship they are interested in. For a Level 2 Payroll Apprenticeship, for example, a candidate would need A-C grades in English and Maths. For Level 3, candidates would also have to demonstrate some payroll experience or have completed an intermediate apprenticeship in payroll. “But if they don't have that knowledge,” says Clark, “we are designing a bridging programme that will help them get it.”

 

Qualifications

 

Clark stresses that apprenticeships aren't an easy option. Level 2 and 3 programmes usually take 12 months to complete, can be intense and include projects, assignments and a final exam. Apprentices don't go to college for day or block release; instead, assessors help and guide them on a one-to-one basis throughout the year. “The great thing about a Payroll Apprenticeship is that, at the end of it, a person can emerge with five different qualifications,” says Clark. “These include a Diploma in Payroll, as well as the apprenticeship certificate, plus English, Maths and ICT.” Every employer who takes on a CIPP apprentice has to have a job available for them after their apprenticeship is over.

There are lots of different routes into the payroll industry, says Clark, who points out that it's important to create a proper “career pathway” for young people — and not simply offer them a course here and there. “If someone wants to be a book-keeper, we can put them on a Book-keeping Apprenticeship,” he says. “But if they want to learn about payroll, too, we can also steer them towards a course which offers payroll knowledge in addition to their book-keeping experience. We can tailor to their needs.”