How the new T levels and ACCA can help local employers build talent pipelines

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Ask any employer, large or small, global or local, for the toughest challenges they face running a business these days and there’s a strong chance that at top of the list will be a resounding… recruitment and retention.

Businesses are faced with a persistent struggle to find the right people. The long-running war for talent in accountancy and finance, as in many professions, is fierce and only getting fiercer amid the pandemic and the ‘Great Resignation’.

As has long been the case, forming relationships with local schools, colleges and sixth forms is a great way for local businesses to nurture a talent pipeline. This is particularly true for local or regional employers who often face the added challenge of competing for young talent with the pull of the bright lights of big cities, universities and multinational companies.

This can leave employers in urbanised zones and rural locations missing out, with graduates unwilling to live locally and smaller employers trying to recruit from a dispersed school leaver population, which can be a difficult community to access.

If this sounds all too familiar as a business owner or hiring manager looking to recruit, nurture and retain finance professionals, a new ACCA-backed solution will launch this September.

T for technical

T levels – the ‘T’ stands for technical – are a qualification aimed at 16-19 year olds to prepare them for the workforce, covering core theory, concepts and skills for an industry area or profession, and specialist skills and knowledge for an occupation or career.

Designed in conjunction with leading businesses and employers, T levels are two-year courses that involve a mix of study and work experience. They’re equivalent to three A levels in size and level, with a heavy focus on the technical aspects of the chosen professional pathway.

The accounting T level has been created with employability in mind and ACCA has worked with a group of cross-industry employers to shape the content to be relevant and robust. This has allowed us to define the skills and knowledge – both technical and soft – employers deem essential for their current and future capability requirements.

ACCA, Pearson and T levels

ACCA has partnered with Pearson to create the syllabus content and materials for the accounting T level. We will also support our college and employer networks, helping them prepare for delivery in September this year.

For students interested in a career in accountancy and finance, this can mean spending their work placement with a local accountancy practice or in the finance department of a business.

After completing an accounting T level, students can continue the ACCA Qualification, potentially with the employer they did their work placement with, which would go even further to supporting retention and development. The accounting T level work experience can also be organised to count towards ACCA’s Professional Experience Requirement, a key component of becoming an ACCA member.

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The work placement

So perhaps where T levels really stand out, for both students and employers, is the considerable work placement element, which creates a smooth transition from education into work.

While many young people will have dreams of far off universities in big cities then working for big name brands, many are also increasingly concerned about security and stability. Furthermore, many are simply unaware of the superb foundation local businesses can provide to their careers.

Placements are at least 315 hours or 45 days, and can be spent in a block, day release or a mix, with one employer or shared between two. This significant placement is a fantastic way for employers to gain access to bright talent and to integrate them into a business, instilling in them values, culture and mission early on. T levels can help employers build relations with post-GCSE students and convince them of the value of beginning their careers within a business, and of the learning and career opportunities this can provide.

Furthermore, they’re cost-effective, as you can sidestep many of the usual costs associated with recruitment by working directly with local schools and colleges, and they’re an effective way to improve workforce diversity, which is proven to create better performing teams and increases innovation and creativity.

Indeed, beyond providing extra manpower and support to current workforce and workload, particularly for smaller employers, bringing in fresh, youthful perspectives and ideas can truly add dynamism.

‘We need placement students as we want their ideas and input,’ said Sophie Hope, Senior Business Development Manager at Greater Manchester Combined Authority. ‘The youth voice is invaluable to us and our student had that in spadefuls. Young people have really innovative and creative ideas and add a different level of dynamism to a team.’

It can also give current staff an opportunity to improve management and mentoring skills, while likewise engaging in reverse mentoring and getting the T level students to share their unique insight.

‘This was huge for us,’ said Hope. ‘Our team developed mentoring skills. One manager in particular has no previous experience of managing people before and this role truly transformed him and his practice. I couldn’t overstate the professional experience this gave him and it was certainly unseen and very welcome.’

You can further support T Level students by arranging the work placement to count towards their Practical Experience Requirement for ACCA, further securing your pipeline by supporting students with their ACCA fees and giving them a head start towards ACCA membership.

For more information:

Also see ACCA's T Level brochure here

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