Zak Barwell is our recently award-winning AAT apprentice. Despite facing incredibly difficult circumstances, he progressed swiftly - receiving 95% in his End Point Assessment.
Why did you choose the apprenticeship route, Zak?
I wasn’t phased about going down a slightly different route into work.
After consideration, I turned down a university offer as I felt the apprenticeship route could be more beneficial. All my friends were going off to uni, but I compared the two options and felt like this was a better route into the accountancy world.
I felt that real world experience is really important and I like the idea of studying whilst learning. Maybe for other subjects uni is more appropriate, but an apprenticeship seemed right for me.
Only for graduates
At my company, however, they would usually hire graduates for roles like this, so I couldn’t apply. However I approached my boss and asked to do the competency test to get onto it.
As the test was designed for graduates, and I wasn’t, I wasn’t expected to do well. And I was right, I didn’t. But by showing an eagerness and desire to improve myself, they gave me the opportunity anyway.
Accountants tend to be money focused, and this is one way to get qualified without carrying loads of debt
- Zak Barwell
I was the first apprentice they ever hired - as it was usually only ever reserved for high achieving graduates. So you need to know your stuff and it’s very competitive. I was having to prove myself every day.
While on the course I learnt so much, and quickly got given more responsibilities. Now, just 18 months later I am starting to manage my own projects, I’m client facing and leading meetings. I’m really progressing my career.
You studied for your Advanced Level (Level 3) whilst working full time. How did you find that?
Yeah, the work/life balance took a bit of getting used to.
Luckily I would have study days, where I could leave the office and focus solely on my education. It meant that when I came back, I would be able to put what I learnt into practice.
OnDemand was also great for managing it all too. It would allow me to get into a study routine.
I think OnDemand is great. It’s good for resources and the knowledge checks, which help you know where you’re up to. Plus you’re able to revisit any topics as many times as you want, in case you lack understanding.
But my company have been great too. They’re really flexible with the days that I choose to take off for study. Factors behind my success have been the combination of my flexible company and the support offered by Kaplan, particularly the talent coaches, throughout my apprenticeship.
What’s next for you?
I want to continue my studies so that in 1-2 years I will have finished AAT Professional Level (Level 4). After that I want to study ACA and become chartered in 3-4 years. This should hopefully see me reach manager level at work.
Hopefully in the next 5 years I will have my studies finished and then I can think about what to do next. I’ll have so many opportunities available - around the world - once I’m a chartered accountant.
I’d say I am quite money motivated, so could potentially look at further qualifications. If I end up opening my own accountancy practice, I want to offer a wide range of services, so I better learn as much as I can!
What would you say to someone who was thinking about doing an apprenticeship?
I would say that if you are considering routes into accountancy and studying AAT then think about the apprenticeship option. Accountants tend to be money focused, and this is one way to get qualified without carrying loads of debt, so it’s financially very efficient!
And as I was working at the same time, I progressed quickly in my job because I was using my new knowledge straight away.
It’s like having your work experience all paid for and being fast tracked all at once. At the end of your qualification you come out totally prepared. I even feel like it’s prepared me for the world better than a degree.
Ultimately though, it comes down to the individual.
For some, the uni-life experience is huge. I missed out on that, as I was living at home and working.
But, personally, I don’t regret it. I would not be where I am without the path I chose.
I have nearly 4 years work experience at 21. Not a bad start.