On Wednesday 1st March I was returning to my office after delivering a Financial Reporting tutorial when I was greeted by Rachel Heath (one of my personal tutees) with a beaming smile on her face. She had just found out she had been offered a place on the NHS graduate scheme.
Rachel’s achievement is an excellent example of a highly motivated student taking advantage of all the support and guidance offered to her to enable her to achieve her dream job.
Rachel started at Staffordshire University in September 2013 studying a BA(Hons) Accounting and Finance Degree. She had studied ‘A’ levels at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College and then taken two years out of education. However, she realised “how hard it is to progress without the knowledge and experience needed within an industry” so she decided to undertake a degree programme.
On Rachel’s second day I became her Personal Tutor, initially helping her to settle into University life and encouraging her to take advantage of all the opportunities presented to her. In addition to regular meetings with Rachel she studied 2 modules which focus on the development of the student, Employability and Study Skills in the first year and Professional Development in the second year. Karl McCormack the Accounting Awards Course Leader leads on both of these modules, the student’s personal tutor delivers the workshop sessions. In these modules students develop communication and team-working skills, they focus on their career ambitions and produce development plans to ensure they gain the skills they require in order to be able to achieve their goals. Part of the first year module involves the students getting their CVs checked by the University’s Careers Section.
The Professional Development module in the second year provides the skills and knowledge students need to help them gain a work placement. Helping students to develop amongst other things CVs, letters of application and interview skills.
During this module Rachel started applying for placement opportunities with the support of her lecturers, Claire Bashford a Placement Consultant, Mark Wordley the Business School’s Placement Co-Ordinator and the Careers Section. Rachel was successful in gaining a 12 month placement with Stoke-on-Trent City Council as a Business and Enterprise support student.
During Rachel’s placement she developed her communication, teamwork and leadership skills. She also gained valuable experience of working under pressure. She was supported during her placement year by Tony Bickley who was her Visiting Placement Tutor at the Council.
Returning to University in September for her final year Rachel set about applying for her graduate job. Having really enjoyed working in the public sector she was keen to follow up opportunities in this area. In February she contacted me let me know she had been selected for a 2 day assessment centre in Bristol for the West Midlands NHS Finance Management Training Scheme. Rachel had submitted an online application which included answering 6 scenario based questions and explaining why she was applying for the scheme and the qualities she would bring to it. After passing that stage she had to complete verbal and numerical tests online. Having passed these tests she was invited to the 2 day assessment centre.
She told me she had to prepare a 10 minute presentation so we discussed what she could include in this and agreed in preparation of the assessment days I would observe her presentation and give her feedback on it. By coincidence I had also been in contact with one of my students who had graduated in June 2009 Himesh Patel who is now Divisional Finance Manager at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.
Himesh had undertaken his placement year with the NHS at the Princess Royal Hospital Telford. They were so impressed with Himesh that he was offered a permanent full-time role when he graduated. Within 3 years Himesh had gained his Chartered Institute of Management Accountants’ qualification and he has since also gained his Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants’ qualification. During his time with the NHS he has gained several promotions to his current role as Divisional Finance Manager.
I contacted Himesh to see if he would be able to give advice and guidance to Rachel and he was very happy to do this. He gave feedback on Rachel’s presentation and advised her on topical areas she could research.
When Rachel arrived at Bristol for the assessment days she met a mix of candidates going for opportunities with the NHS in the South West and the West Midlands. There were 3 vacancies available and approximately 12 candidates. She had to complete a time pressured written task based around a case study, a group activity, a 10 minute presentation and an interview.
Rachel’s success is no more than she deserves she is a motivated hard-working student. Reflecting on both Rachel’s and Himesh’s success I think the key messages are as follows:-
- Undertaking a year’s placement is vital to gain the skills employers require.
- The support available to students from their Personal Tutor, the Placement Consultant, the Business School Placement Co-Ordinator, the Visiting Placement Tutor, Subject Lecturers, the Careers Section and Alumni illustrate how we put the student “at the heart of everything we do”.
- The structure of the Accounting Awards including the Employability and Study Skills and Professional Development modules very much supports students in developing subject knowledge and the skills they need to gain their placement and then graduate employment opportunities.
- These Awards receive professional accreditation allowing students to gain exemptions from certain exam papers which enables our graduates to gain their professional accounting qualifications more quickly.
For me it is success stories like Rachel’s and Himesh’s that make the job worthwhile.
Helen Buttery SFHEA CPFA Cert.Ed.
School of Business, Leadership and Economics