Major Gloucestershire firm reveals apprentices are the key to its ongoing success

Gloucestershire accountants and business advisors, Hazlewoods, reveals the secret of how it stays at the top of its game and continues to grow, by supporting and training the next generation of talent.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
Hazlewoods' stance on apprenticeships helps the Gloucestershire firm stay at the very top of its profession.

Highly-rated accountants and business advisors, Hazlewoods, has revealed its radical approach to recruitment that is reaping benefits and helping it deliver for clients year after year – over a quarter of its nearly 500-strong staff team are apprentices. 

As part of the SoGlos Gloucestershire Apprenticeship Campaign, we spoke to Alison Townsend, director of marketing for Hazlewoods LLP - which turned over an estimated £34 million last year and helped complete deals for clients worth more than £1 billion - about why the firm's approach is working.

Why does Hazlewoods put such a focus on apprentices?

The figures speak for themselves. We value the importance of apprenticeships so much that they make up over one quarter of Hazlewoods' people. We are immensely proud to be supporting 127 apprentices out of a total Hazlewoods workforce of 484.

To put it simply, we value apprentices so highly because they are the future of Hazlewoods, and the backbone of our firm.

We recognise how crucial and necessary it is to offer real-life client-based work experience alongside structured classroom training and support to gain a Level 4 AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians), and for those who choose to proceed onto the ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant) Level 7 qualification.

Once qualified, we can offer our apprentices a plethora of permanent job opportunities across all of our specialisms from audit to tax and corporate finance.

This year, Hazlewoods took on 45 apprentices. That sounds like one hefty training bill. How is it cost effective?

As a contributor to the apprenticeship levy, we draw down from this and then, as per current government legislation, pay five per cent of the remaining balance.

Investing in our trainees is nothing new to Hazlewoods. The very nature of our job requires qualified chartered accountants and business advisers. We believe it is the employer’s duty to pay for theses training costs, as well as offering days off for revision and exams, and to pay for all travel expenses.

As so many of our apprentices choose to stay on at Hazlewoods once qualified, investing in such an in-depth training programme is an absolute no-brainer.

Does Hazlewoods have a separate graduate scheme alongside the apprenticeship route?

All of our training opportunities are for apprenticeships – whether that is the Level 4 AAT apprenticeship which suits sixth form/college leavers or the graduate Level 7 ACA apprenticeship  - equivalent to a masters degree. There is no separate, faster graduate route.

In fact, if you join Hazlewoods straight from sixth form/college for the AAT apprenticeship, which lasts two years, and then progress straight onto the ACA apprenticeship, which lasts three years, you could actually fully qualify as a chartered accountant a whole year earlier than if you went to university for a three-year degree programme and then joined Hazlewoods for our three-year graduate ACA apprenticeship.

Indeed, we are seeing more and more students choosing to pursue this career route – choosing to earn while they learn straight from school/college and increasing their employability skills from the outset, rather than incurring the much-publicised student debt from university.

For the first time ever, our last apprenticeship intake in September 2022 saw more school leaver applicants than graduates starting an apprenticeship with Hazlewoods – and we think this will become a growing trend.

Can you give us some of the technical details about what sort of apprenticeships the firm offers?

Firstly – to clarify – there is no age limit on apprenticeships. We welcome applications from any age group – all that is required is a keen interest in audit, tax, and/or business advisory and the minimum academic requirements of 112 UCAS points earned through A Levels or BTEC with a Level 6/grade B or above in both English and maths for the Level 4 AAT Apprenticeship (minimum two years' training); or a 2:1 in any degree discipline for the Level 7 ACA Apprenticeship (minimum three years' training). 

All of our apprentices are buddied with a mentor and offered work experience in different departments to see where their preferred interests lie.

So many of our qualified staff are integral to supporting our trainees – apprentices are truly interwoven into our office life and they play a valuable contribution, often bringing a vitality and fresh pair of eyes to work scenarios.

What advice would you give to anyone considering an apprenticeship?

Personally, I think this decade is the era for apprenticeships – where we will see more school and college leavers proactively choosing to start salaried work with a structured training programme over going to university.

School and college leavers are more financially aware and ambitious than ever before. They want a decent salary whilst maximising their career prospects, over incurring undergraduate debt, and more so than ever with soaring inflation costs.

However, one word of warning is that apprenticeships are certainly not to be considered the easy option. Far from it – they require hard work, commitment and dedication to the training programme.

If you are prepared to put the work in and have the drive, then an apprenticeship in accountancy offers a world of career opportunities, either in-house or in industry, all the way up to partner level, financial director or even CEO. For an apprentice, the opportunities are endless.

In partnership with

Helping more than 700 apprentices in Gloucestershire qualify each year in sectors ranging from catering to computing, Gloucestershire College cultivates strong relationships with businesses of all sizes to understand what they need and to support students through to a successful career.

Founded in 1977 by a partnership of county businesses, Gloucestershire Engineering Training provides apprenticeship training for the county’s best and most innovative engineering firms and continues to support apprenticeships as a route to work and career development.

Globally successful engineering firm Renishaw was founded in 1973 by two former engineering apprentices and works across a wide variety of sectors, including aerospace, automotive and healthcare. Renishaw continues to show dedication to apprenticeships at all levels, too.

SGS College has forged strong links with businesses and helps train hundreds of students annually at levels two, three, four and higher, in everything from accounting and finance; business administration; carpentry; joinery; education and childcare; gas engineering and electrical installation; construction; teaching; HR; to customer services and more.

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