Accounting Technicians Ireland offer an alternative to college

The more County Cavan school-leaver Joshua Hennessy looked into third-level accounting courses during his Leaving Certificate year in 2022, the less they appealed to him.

A year on, thanks to the advice of a friend, Joshua (19), from Virginia, is now happily approaching the end of year one of a two-year a national accounting technician apprenticeship programme which will create 150 positions this year.

Applications have opened for the Accounting Technicians Ireland (ATI) apprenticeship, in partnership with further education colleges in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Meath, Monaghan, Waterford and Wicklow.

The apprenticeship is a funded, two-year, work-based learning education and training programme in which apprentices work, learn and earn at least €22,035 a-year while attending lectures one day a week at a local college.

It provides an alternative for school leavers who prefer practical training to a full-time college programme - or those who started a college course and found it did not suit them.

It is also an option for existing employees and mature learners who want to pursue accounting and provides exam exemptions for those wishing to go on to study to become a fully qualified accountant.

“I was researching accounting courses a few months out from my Leaving Certificate,” said Joshua, a former pupil of Virginia College and now apprenticed to the Virginia offices of chartered accountants and registered auditors, Woods and Partners Limited.

“But the more I looked into what full-time college had to offer, the more I realised it did not match what I wanted. The idea of committing to a course I had no practical knowledge of, paying high tuition fees and not gaining workplace experience did not appeal to me at all. I heard about the ATI apprenticeship from a friend, who was in the first year of the programme at the time. It is perfect for me. There are huge benefits for a school leaver looking for a career in accountancy".

"There are zero education costs, a salary, and you learn so much from your work colleagues. I enjoy being in both the workplace and Colaiste Íde in Finglas as each helps the learning process within the other. Being able to put my academic work into practice and dealing with real life clients is huge for my professional development. There is a workplace mentor, who delegates tasks and is always ready to help and assess my work, which means I am constantly improving. I would recommend the ATI apprenticeship to people like me, who prefer a practical approach to learning. Going to college full-time is not for everybody.”

The apprenticeship enables employers recruit and upskill staff in a cost-effective manner as training fees are covered by state agency, SOLAS.

Employers can also avail of a grant of €2,000 per-year for each apprentice they employ.

Large firms and smaller practices, as well as industry and the public sector, have all embraced the programme.

Gabriela Airini, Head of Education at ATI, said the apprenticeship enables employers to recruit and upskill staff in a cost-effective manner.

“The Accounting Technician Apprenticeship continues to contribute towards job creation and business growth in Ireland with over 650 jobs created since the programme’s foundation in 2017,” she said.

“Graduates gain a professional QQI Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Accounting and have acquired practical professional skills needed to fill a range of accounting and finance roles across all sectors. ATI is continuing to work with over 350 apprenticeship employers which have hired Accounting Technician apprentices across 22 sectors.”

Leaving Certificate students, school leavers, career changers, and mature learners can apply at