Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance
We spoke to Honor Green about her experiences participating in the CIPFA Level 7 Professional Accountancy Apprenticeship, and how this launched her career in public finance at the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
Find out more about our apprenticeship programmes or contact the apprenticeships team.
Can you tell us about your current position?
I'm a principal accountant in children's services within the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. This is a management accounting role where I'm responsible for part of the special educational needs (SEN) service and our capital and revenue asset management and operations. The role includes a business process review element, a lot of data collection and maintenance, responsibility for a payments cycle, and the set up and delivery of a capital maintenance programme. It's a very varied role as I'm supporting two services and I like this variety.
What made you choose a career in public finance?
I wanted to do something in the public sector, and I fell into this after applying to a few different schemes. I wanted to have a technical and professional skill that could contribute to the delivery of services that I feel we should be providing.
What apprenticeship programme did you undertake with CIPFA? Could you tell us about it?
I started off through the Finance the Future graduate scheme which then converted into an apprenticeship. I was one of the first new apprentices for CIPFA. We were the first group to go through the end-point assessment instead of submitting the portfolio as previous students did.
How have you found the apprenticeship? Do you feel it's set you up for your future career?
The apprenticeship set me up for future CPD as it made me think about the skills and behaviours I was displaying through certain roles and pieces of work. I had a very good mentor with my employer who really helped me think through and analyse my own behaviours. This will be useful for future interviews too.
What part of the programme did you enjoy the most?
I enjoyed the camaraderie that came from going through a scheme with lots of others. I was lucky in that we could attend college in person then. I made some good friends who I'll remain in touch with. We were able to support each other practically with the studying and emotionally, as we understood the nature of our work and training in ways that others couldn't.
Has the pandemic impacted your experience as an apprentice this year?
Fortunately, only the strategic stage of my apprenticeship was affected, and I studied remotely for my final two exams. It would have been useful to have the discussions in college with other students to help me prepare and revise for my case study, but the support provided by CIPFA was enough to get me through. In my role as President of the CIPFA Student Network in the South East, I've been trying to put students in touch with each other for social and revision purposes. We're now working on virtual events to be held within the next few months.
So, what skills have you gained from the apprenticeship?
I've learned to think through my actions and performance in a more analytical manner. Additionally, the range of technical skills I've gained through my studies will be invaluable for different jobs in the future.
What are your career aspirations for the future?
I'd like to work up to a more strategic post that I feel is serving the public. I'd also like to work in Spain for a few years.
Would you recommend a CIPFA apprenticeship to others just beginning their careers? Why?
Yes, because it teaches you a range of skills ranging from operational and technical to strategic, directly setting you up for future leadership roles. Additionally, the skills gained through the CIPFA scheme needn't be limited only to accountancy and can be a good springboard into other types of roles.
What advice would you give others that are considering a career in public services?
I'd advise them that it can be frustrating to want to deliver certain services but be limited by funding. Finance are often the ones that seem to be saying no, so it requires strength of character and conviction to hold fast to your professional standards. However, as a finance business partner, you'll be working your hardest alongside the organisation you support in order to adapt to changing circumstances -and that can be really rewarding.