For Yetunde Odimayo, helping CIPFA's accountancy apprentices to successfully balance their day-to-day work with their accountancy training – and supporting employers through the process – is all in a day's work.
Here we ask Yetunde to expand on her work and how this is helping CIPFA students and apprentices as they start out in their public finance career.
What is a work based learning coach?
I work with our students who are training towards a professional accountancy apprenticeship. My role is to make sure they are supported throughout their training, helping them to stay on track, aligning their work to the apprenticeship standard, providing feedback on their progress and also providing a listening ear and support for any challenges they may experience on route to qualifying. In a nutshell I am there to work with them and the employer to help them succeed in their apprenticeship.
For an apprentice, what does the experience of having a work based learning coach look like?
To start with I will visit apprentices and their line manager at their place of work, at the outset of the apprenticeship. We'll walk through the learning plan and some of the key milestones and requirements involved in their training. I help explain some of the intricacies and administration involved and answer any questions – there are always lots, as there's a lot of paperwork!
After the first meeting we will continue to meet at regular points across the training programme to see how things are progressing. We will also check that apprentices are capturing information and evidence which help to demonstrate those skills and behaviours they are acquiring, which in turn will help them successfully complete their apprenticeship.
An important part of the training is the '20% off-the-job training'. My job is to help our students and employers understand what that looks like in practice. This is largely fulfilled by their formal accountancy training, whether face-to- face or live online. Beyond this there are a great variety of ways to benefit from off-the-job training, for example shadowing a colleague, attending a webinar, writing an assignment, working with a mentor and so on.
Does your work extend to supporting employers as sponsors of individual students and apprentices?
Yes, these definitely go hand-in-hand. From the outset I meet both apprentice and employer. If, for example, it is the first time either have been involved in an apprenticeship our first meeting can cover all the bases from both perspectives. Although ongoing meetings are typically intended for the apprentice, line managers will often pop in and catch up and we stay in touch across the programme working jointly to support our apprentice!
How do you think the coaching model benefits students as they train for an apprenticeship?
I think it is a really important and valuable part of how CIPFA work with employers and apprentices. Managing the work-life-training balance can be very challenging for apprentices. Combine this with the need to understand how the apprenticeship is structured, the need to capture and demonstrate competencies along the way, and a number of other requirements, it can feel a challenge for the apprentice. My single focus is helping them get through their training successfully and I think to provide that one-to-one support provides additional structure and drive to help that happen.
What skills do you need to be a work-based learning coach?
On the technical front, by profession I am a qualified accountant, a Chartered Public Finance Accountant with CIPFA, as well as an experienced accountancy trainer and assessor. This means that I am familiar with the CIPFA syllabus that our apprentices are studying and can see where their areas of knowledge are strong, or otherwise, and therefore how to pinpoint areas for development.
On the softer side, I think being able to listen as well as to have empathy and be organised also helps!
What's the best thing about the job?
Meeting and working with students and employers across very different public sector organisations is very rewarding. Being there at the very start of an apprenticeship helps us to build a productive relationship that lasts the course.
Working together we get to understand the needs of both the apprentices and their employers. It can be hard work for apprentices and needs consistent discipline. To see the students develop both in a professional capacity and personally, using their training and work experience to consolidate their learning, is great. Of course seeing students pass their professional accountancy exams on route is a great boost too.
When the levy was first launched, it was a big change, particularly for employers, training organisations and accountancy bodies. It took a little while for us to work out how to best support students and deliver our commitments within the apprenticeship framework. I feel proud to have worked with employers and to have helped that happen.
What's your main piece of advice for accountancy apprentices?
My main advice to students and apprentices is to ensure that they create and develop a study plan from the start of their journey, incorporating structured completion of the work experience, documenting the development of the skills and behaviours of the apprenticeship standards.
To find out more about what CIPFA has to offer for AAT apprenticeships at Level 3 and Level 4, and CIPFA's professional accountancy apprenticeship at Level 7 visit our apprenticeships pages.