Lockdown, not shutdown

Lockdown

Lockdown doesn’t need to mean shutdown!

When lockdown was announced, we thought “Eek – is business going to dry up and will we need to furlough most of the team?!?”

The answer to those questions were:

  • No
    and
  • No!!

We have not had to furlough any of our team – and this is despite two members of staff returning from maternity leave and retaining those recruited to cover them.

In terms of the various arms of our business:

Distance Learning:

April was the best of April that we have ever had! April to June are traditionally quiet months for distance learning, leading up to a normally busy summer period. However, the requirement for many to work from home or to be furloughed has provided individuals with an opportunity to review their career plans, with many deciding to take the plunge and start the accountancy/bookkeeping career that they had long hankered after. The majority of these enrolments have been individuals paying for the course themselves. In January, before the crisis hit, we had a lot of employers paying for their staff to be enrolled. Because our distance learning courses are delivered online and with telephone and email support, training has not been encumbered by the restrictions of lockdown at all.

Apprenticeships:

Existing learners

  • Many of our apprentices have been furloughed but the majority have been able to continue their studies and are still on the programme – some making every use of the opportunity to really crack on with their studies.
  • Apprenticeship Professional Discussions are being undertaken and therefore tutors are working with the student to get their portfolios ready for submission prior to the Professional Discussion.
  • Some of these students sat their synoptic exam before Lockdown and so, for those on Level 3, once their Professional Discussion is complete, we can sign them up to Level 4, as the whole process can be done remotely.
  • All of our learning materials can be accessed as before – the on-line materials are available 24×7 on Moodle and study manuals are being shipped directly from the publishers to students’ homes.
  • Our day release sessions have continued on the same days – albeit now virtually via Microsoft Teams. Some apprentices like the video facility, some prefer the chat function….a few are finding it difficult to get out of bed!?!
  • Our regular progress reviews are also now being completed on Microsoft Teams, with digital signatures being obtained from both apprentice and their line manager.
  • Marking and feedback on progress tests continue as before.
  • Individual Learning Plans have been amended to reflect the fact that exams may have been deferred, meaning that more than one subject will have to be studied before being able to sit an exam – which in fact is no different to what students have had to do in the past.

Exams:

This is the one area that has come to a grinding halt. There has been no exam income, as we are unable to offer exams at present. However, students are continuing to study, in many cases at a faster rate than normal. After lockdown, there will be flood of exam bookings. We are already planning to provide additional exam sittings each week (delaying the recommencement of our on-site day release classes) in order to clear the backlog. The lost income will then be recouped – not lost income, merely delayed income.

In summary – despite lockdown, our training has continued, and with a minimum of disruption!

Progressions

One of our apprentices who had completed their synoptic exam before lockdown completed their Professional Discussion on the new AAT SEPA online platform. Subsequently, we have been able to complete their sign up to Level 4 completely on-line, using Teams for face to face contact and our Bud Apprenticeship platform for the completion of the “paperwork” on-line, including with digital signatures. We have a number of other apprentices planned in to progress in May also.

New Starts

Since lockdown, we have signed up five new Apprentices. All were already employed. Three had completed AAT Levels 2 and 3 with other providers, (mainly via distance learning) and wanted to progress to Level 4 via the Apprenticeship route with us. The other two had been involved in IT and admin roles with their employers and wanted to move into an accounting role, commencing with the Level 3 Apprenticeship (incorporating elements of Level 2). All were working from home or furloughed. As with our progressions, we were able to get them signed up completely remotely and get their studies started. For those furloughed, it was an ideal opportunity for them to get a head start on their studies so that when they return to the office, they can hit the ground running.

Recruitment and Induction

Talent Programme

Back in February/early March, we launched our Talent Programme via a FaceBook campaign. We whittled down the initial 229 enquiries to 20 active students, via a process of submission of CVs, completion of a free basic bookkeeping taster course and submission of a bookkeeping test with a 90% pass mark, review of CV and attendance at interview. The successful candidates were given a free place on our Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping distance learning course. The last two of these candidates were interviewed remotely on Teams. So, very soon, we will have a pipeline of students ready to take up an Apprenticeship position.

Pre-Recruitment Bookkeeping Aptitude Test (BAT)

In early March we adapted our ‘Talent Programme’ approach to create a pre-recruitment screening process for a client, with their candidate completing our Bookkeeping taster course and submitting the progress test prior to interview, again with a requirement of a minimum mark of 90%. The client was also provided access to the Moodle learning platform so they could view the activity logs of their candidate, the process thus providing evidence of attitude as well as attitude. The successful candidate was offered a job, but Lockdown intervened. However, the candidate was then provided with our “The Balancing Act” bookkeeping induction training package which she has been working on at home – so that when she starts, she should be “oven ready”!

A further client had just recruited two ACA students immediately before lockdown. They too have been provided The Balancing Act to work through whilst on Furlough.

What is ‘The Balancing Act’?

The Balancing Act is a comprehensive self-study bookkeeping course that can be completed in as little as 5 days! With 26 step-by-step interactive online learning presentations and a hard copy ‘case study’ workbook containing 43 practical bookkeeping activities (with answers and an end of course test), it is an ideal way of getting new (and/or existing) staff up to speed rapidly.

The course takes students through getting to grips with double entry, dealing with sales and purchases, all the way through to preparing a Profit & Loss Account and Balance Sheet (including end of period adjustments).

For more information, please click here

So

If you have

  • Students who have completed their studies at Levels 2, 3 or 4 and you thought that they would have to wait before progressing onto to Levels 3, 4 or 7 (ICAEW), or
  • Students who have recently started at work but have not yet started their studies, or
  • Students who are you are looking to move into an accounting role, or
  • New recruits to whom you have offered a job but who are waiting to start, or
  • Candidates who have enquired about a vacancy but who you haven’t yet interviewed, or
  • Vacancies, for which you haven’t yet felt able to advertise

Think again……

……there is no need to stop the process of recruitment, induction and training

If you would like to discuss any of the above and the various options available to you (Distance Learning, Apprenticeships, Bookkeeping Aptitude Test, The Balancing Act), do give us a call on 01392 435349 or email us at [email protected]

We would love to help.

Written by Simon Deane