Each year, more students are considering alternatives to University, and we’re proud to provide students who join us on our Business Apprenticeships the qualification, skills and support needed to kick-start a career in business.
Our Business Academy work experience programme gives students in Year 12/S5/Year 13 - Belfast the chance to see what it’s like to be an apprentice at EY, understand our culture, and it's a chance to network with our people all while being given the opportunity to be fast-tracked onto our apprenticeships.
The Business Academy week
Our Early ID team have worked hard to deliver a programme that is suitable for a virtual environment and that provides students with the tools, support, and information needed to begin their journey at EY. Over the week our Business Academy students take part in virtual mentoring, a case study, goal setting, skill sessions, application process advice and a fun competition.
Case Study: the case study allows students to dive deep into their business area and get a real feel for client work and engagements that our apprentices get involved in from day one of joining us. Students work collaboratively in groups to find out information and are given the chance to present back their findings and ideas as a group.
Mentoring: our mentoring opportunity is for students to have multiple touch points with our experts in the business either on panel sessions, Partner speakers, local office buddy conversations and more. We’re passionate about students hearing from as many EY people to not only enhance their experience, but to ensure they're as informed as possible to support them in their career journey at EY.
This one-week work experience makes a huge impact on students who are looking to begin their career journey with us, so we caught up with some of our apprentices who all made the decision to join our Business Apprenticeship after successfully completing the Business Academy. Mia, Cambridge Assurance Apprentice, Simona, Leeds Assurance Apprentice, and James, Reading Tax Apprentice share their insights, advice to students thinking about their future, and their experience on the Business Academy.
What attracted you to apply to the Business Academy?
Mia: “When I was in Year 12 at sixth form, I was completely clueless on what I wanted to do in the future; my school was very university-driven, so the norm was that everyone went. I always thought that I’d eventually end up going to study Maths and see where that got me, but it wasn’t until I attended a school-organised University and Apprenticeships’ fair, that I really started to realise how many apprenticeship schemes were out there and how great they sounded. As soon as I got home, I started researching all the companies that I’d seen at the fair that day (particularly those in finance) and started to discover the amount of summer work experience on offer. EY’s Business Academy particularly stood out to me, as it seemed like the best opportunity to learn about what a job in that particular area would look like, to speak to lots of people who work there and to see how well-suited I was to that profession. Never at that point as a 17-year-old, did I ever think I’d get an apprenticeship with them!”
James: “I was always interested in a career in either finance or working for one of the Big 4 accounting firms. The Business Academy seemed like a perfect opportunity to experience what it would be like working in the professional services industry. The Business Academy is also a great chance to get your foot in the door at EY, which is so important these days, especially with how competitive it is to be lucky enough to get a place on the apprenticeship programme. Ultimately, what attracted me most to the business academy was the opportunity to meet people who had taken the route to join EY as an apprentice and to be able to ask them any questions I had. I think this is vital for anyone who is not sure about whether they want to get an apprenticeship or go to uni, definitely best to be informed about your possible choices”.
Simona: “What initially attracted me to Business Academy is the opportunity to work in a global company such as EY where people from different countries, ethnicities and beliefs all came to work together. It was also a great opportunity to get an insight in what day-to-day activities employees took part in”.
Can you describe your experiences on the Business Academy?
Mia: “The week of my Business Academy was an insightful one, of which I spent with three other peers. The first day of the week was spent attending many UK-wide virtual webcast events, which detailed more about what EY did as a company, how they make their money and what an Apprenticeship role would look like in Assurance, including what qualifications you can study for. We attended networking events so we were able to speak to a range of people with a wide span of experiences. The particular networking social that was the most valuable to me was the one spent with first and second-year apprentices, as they were able to tell me about their personal experiences and gave me an insight as to what it’s like joining a firm straight after your A-Levels. The latter half of the week included more practical elements, getting more of an insight into the everyday role of the job and performing taster tasks of what your typical day-to-day would often look like. The week ended on researching for, preparing and delivering a business presentation”.*
*Whilst this will be virtual for 2021, the same activities and opportunities apply to all of our students on the academy.
James: “The Business Academy team in Tax had to give a presentation to our buddies at the end of the week on disruptive technology. I felt this really helped improve our presentation skills and it was really nice to get feedback from them on how we could improve. Overall, I really enjoyed my week and definitely made me want to work for EY”.
Simona: “From day one we were introduced to people from the office and were very much welcomed and integrated with everyone else. I personally learned a lot and developed a lot of my soft skills such as my communication, business and professional behaviour as well as my presentational skills”.
Why did you choose to stay on as an apprentice at EY?
Mia: “This decision was almost a no-brainer for me. As I mentioned above, there was a great deal of pressure for people at my sixth-form to go to university, as it always appeared to be the more academic option, but I think at the time and still to this day, there is a stigma that apprenticeships are less academic and involve less learning. I think that this is the complete opposite. With my scheme, you have a full-time job and you're studying towards a professional qualification (of which mine is equivalent to a Master’s Degree), so in fact, you're dealing with twice the amount as a university student. I understand this can come across as daunting at first, but the amount of learning that this subjects you to is immense and transforms you from an A-Level student to a professional worker in a matter of years. Whereas, after a few years at University, you’d only have half of that – a qualification, and little to no experience in the working world. My choice to pursue an apprenticeship has been one I will never regret and always persuade others to do the same!”
James: “For me it was definitely the culture that I had seen/experienced whilst partaking in the Business Academy. EY has such great people working for them and I really enjoyed the atmosphere during my time, which made me think "wow I want to work here". Aside from that, I felt that it was the best decision for my career, gaining my qualifications whilst earning a salary, instead of getting in debt whilst going to Uni. So, for me it was a no-brainer in that respect”.
Simona: “I learned a lot during my Business Academy work experience, and I was intrigued on how much more I could learn as an apprentice. Every day is a new learning experience. Similarly, I wanted to expand my network and EY allowed me to do that by meeting new people from different backgrounds and sectors making it that much more diverse”.
How did you prepare for the application?
Mia: What I remember doing before applying to the Business Academy, was to make sure I knew as much as I possibly could about the firm itself, the particular service line I was applying to and what the week would entail. I also made sure to have a good think about why I was interested in taking part in the work experience week and what benefits I believed it would bring me for my future career path. I definitely think the most important point to bring across in your application is your desire to take part and why you are interested, because EY are looking for those that are genuinely intrigued in finding more about Assurance and what a potential apprenticeship for them could look like. However, no one expects you to be an expert at this stage!
James: “To prepare for my application I completed lots of practise aptitude tests which I found was invaluable for when I had to take them as part of my application. I would recommend anyone who is thinking of applying to practise as sometimes these tests can be hard to pick up the first time you do them. There are loads of free tests on various websites”.
Simona: “I researched the parts of my application process and asked myself what I could do to prepare for each step. I did a lot of online practice tests for the online assessments to get an idea of what to expect on the application process. For the rest of the process I had mock interviews with my family and friends to prepare me for interviews and see how I can improve on them”.
What advice would you give to students who are thinking of joining EY?
Mia: “Try and read as much online as you can about the opportunities at EY, attend virtual webcasts that they offer, speak to people you may know in the profession and to the people close to you. Invest time in thinking about all the information and if it feels right for you and you’d like to give it a go, then apply. When I was thinking of applying a few years ago, I knew absolutely nothing about apprenticeships or Assurance itself; I was completely clueless – if you feel this way, that is completely normal. Never let this unfamiliarity put you off – the Business Academy is there for the exact reason of giving you exposure to EY and the role”.
James: “Make sure you consider all of your options, don’t limit yourself to one option. I would recommend speaking to people who have gone down the apprenticeship route and those who may have gone to uni doing the same thing as you would do. Ask them the positive and negatives for both. It is definitely best to be informed and to have all your burning questions answered before making a decision. I would even recommend reaching out to EY apprentices on LinkedIn to get their opinion/advice”.
Simona: “I would advise to do some research and find out what EY is all about. I was interested at doing the work experience to get an insight of what there is to expect from the apprenticeship, and it was very helpful in doing that. EY is a great gateway into the business world and I would highly recommend it if you’re interested in this career path”.