Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance

A counter fraud apprentice going from strength to strength

How apprenticeships can lead to learning opportunities for both the employer and the apprentice.

We recently interviewed Michael Frost, Audit and Anti-Fraud Manager at Buckinghamshire Council on his experience of taking on a Counter Fraud Investigator Apprentice. The levy-funded apprenticeship is a new professional standard and an ideal way for local authorities and any other relevant organisations to access training for their fraud investigators.

CIPFA: Why did you decide to recruit a counter fraud apprentice – what benefits did you see in this as opposed to recruiting someone with existing experience/expertise?

Michael: Our apprentice was actually an existing member of staff. She was recruited as a graduate trainee with a view to us running the apprenticeship programme. The scheme was good for efficiency and cost saving, but also provided a purposeful benefit to that member of staff. It demonstrated the trust we've placed in them, the time we're willing to invest in them, but also gets structured knowledge around counter fraud into our organisation. She has a structured programme and is getting on-the-job experience. We've seen the benefits of it already and she's not even halfway through yet. It's working really well.

C: What was it like recruiting an apprentice remotely/virtually?

M: It was okay! We focused less on the CV and more on emotional intelligence. The world's your oyster when you recruit people with emotional intelligence and the ability to adapt to your organisation. We managed to recruit someone that fit our culture, somebody with the same ethics and the same emphatic sense of care. Someone with the same sense of fair play and honesty. She's come on leaps and bounds.

C: How have you found managing a counter fraud apprentice? What have been the challenges and the positives?

M: It's been fantastic and very confidence building. I was initially worried about losing 20% of their time for training. I also had questions around how apprentices would be taught, how they'd be made to feel valued, how they'd develop their knowledge base in a virtual environment. But they have all been allayed and she now challenges me on some of the things I do. I'm very old school. I have a lot of short cuts, I forget things – it's great to have someone who has the confidence to say "hey, what about this?", which shows me she's learning a lot. She's taking experience into her lectures and bringing questions back.

C: How has the apprentice progressed and what do they bring to the counter fraud team?

M: She has done remarkably well. There have been one or two occasions in sensitive investigations when we have been interviewing people and I could see when she had concerns or felt sorry for them. Fraudsters can sometimes turn on the tears and put on a false persona. But this is all part of the learning experience. We have a post-interview debrief where we talk through the situation. It's making her see that her job is to discern the facts and to separate out the emotion. She's developed a stronger acumen and can balance that now. She's now starting to do her own supervised investigations. We're helping her build confidence and structure and that seems to be working well. The challenges are more around getting feedback regularly, but she's exceeding all expectations.

C: Would you recommend recruiting a counter fraud apprentice to others and if so, why?

M: Absolutely, without doubt, 100%. It's a fantastic way to get people into your organisation. It's also a great demonstration tool to others – if you put in the hard work, we'll invest in an exciting career for you. I've now got two other apprentices lined up. These are managers that are closer to my age. Apprenticeships are not just about young people. It's about developing knowledge and skills in various other ways. We've looked at people with a particular skillset and ethic rather than a particular set of experiences.

C: What advice would you give to others who are considering recruiting a counter fraud apprentice?

M: Look for the type of person you want, the culture you've got and recruit accordingly. Everyone in a team brings a different skillset. Work to those strengths.

About the Counter Fraud Investigator Apprenticeship

The CIPFA Counter Fraud Investigator Apprenticeship is a market-leading programme that delivers innovative, dynamic and relevant training to aspiring counter fraud professionals working in a range of investigative roles. It also includes the opportunity to gain the highly regarded and widely recognised Accredited Counter Fraud Specialist (ACFS) designation in addition to the apprenticeship. Contact the team to learn more: cfi-apprenticeship@cipfa.org

Additional incentive payments

Employers will receive £3,000 for new employees of any age who start their apprenticeship from 1 April 2021 to 30 September 2021. More information is available here.