Alice Neville describes her experience of doing a Business Apprenticeship (Audit) with leading accounting firm EY.
Alice Neville is an audit associate in the Business Apprentice programme at EY – one of the largest professional service networks in the world and a ‘Big Four’ accounting firm. She is based in Cambridge and has been in her role for two years.
How did you hear about EY business apprenticeships?
I first heard about EY at a ‘What Career Live?’ event, full of university and apprenticeship opportunities. At this point, I was unsure what I wanted to do so it was great to get a chance to talk to some EY employees at the stand they had at the show.
What qualifications did you need to apply for this apprenticeship?
You need three A levels to be eligible for EY’s Business Apprenticeship programme, in any subjects; I studied business, psychology and maths. At the time of applying, I didn’t know which service line I wanted to join as I wasn’t sure exactly what each of them entailed. There are four: Assurance, Consulting, Strategy and Transactions, and Tax.
I chose Assurance, as I saw it as a broader area and a chance to gain insight into different areas, as you work on different accounts.
Assurance is broken down into Audit, Financial Accounting Consulting Services and Forensic and Integrity services, providing insights and technical knowledge across geographies.
What does your business apprenticeship with EY entail?
I joined in September 2018 on a level 7 apprenticeship that runs for four-and-a-half years. I’m currently an audit associate and my role is to check companies’ financial statements in order for us to provide an opinion on them. So I work with clients to gain information and support for their accounts, often using EY analytics tools which help us perform certain tasks more efficiently when working with large volumes of data.
I have a variety of clients as I work from Cambridge, in a regional office — some are global, some are smaller.
What aspects of your apprenticeship do you enjoy?
I really enjoy being at different client sites and meeting new people. I’m always working with different teams at different places and I like having the opportunity to network with a mix of people at all levels.
Of course, due to coronavirus, a lot of our people are working from home; we’ve always had flexible working at EY, but we use Microsoft Teams for video calls. We are able to go to client sites sometimes, but a lot of activity has been put in place to make sure all of our colleagues are safe.
What were your impressions of your first day?
On my first day at EY, I had yet to be assigned to a client, so I was around the office doing a variety of different tasks for colleagues.
I found that they were all welcoming and willing to answer any questions I had. When I then had my first day with a client, I met my team, who were all so friendly and explained the work that was expected from me and what we were doing.
What surprised me most was how welcoming everyone was; they really made me feel part of the team. I didn’t expect my managers to be so approachable. Going in as a business apprentice, I have a lot of support from other apprentices who have been at the firm longer and can advise me about exams and other concerns. I didn’t expect them to be such a close group.
How does it feel to progress your skills and experience in your apprenticeship?
Learning so much in my first year means I can work more independently on the jobs I’m allocated, and I know how to do it.
I’m now also given slightly more complex tasks that I haven’t seen before and don’t know how to approach, so I’m constantly learning.
Have you thought about your career progression and what comes next for you after a business apprenticeship with EY?
I’m looking forward to passing more exams on my way to becoming a qualified chartered accountant, and to learning more and more as I continue to progress in my career and improve my skills.
We are constantly working with different teams and with seniors, assistant managers, managers and senior managers, so we can see clear career paths.
There are also other opportunities such as moving between offices, or secondments which give you the chance to work abroad. You can also change service lines.
What would you say to someone considering an apprenticeship with EY?
EY is a great company to work for and is recognised by other companies within the industry, so it could help open other career doors in the future.
To anyone else considering a job here, I’d advise doing as much research as possible to really try to understand EY as a company – what they’re about and whether it’s the right fit for you.
What would you say to your younger self?
My advice to my younger self would be to try harder to understand what audit is; at the time, I found it difficult to find out what the actual job was about, but I could perhaps have done more research into different service lines.