When deciding which career to pursue after secondary school, Denisa Zima knew that a traditional university or college curriculum was not for her. “I didn’t want to go Monday to Friday, 9-5 for another three or four years of experience. I knew I wanted to do something that was more engaging.”
Born in Romania, Zima moved with her family to Dublin at the age of 13. She always had an aptitude for numbers and problem solving, and preferred to work part-time throughout secondary school. When her school guidance counselor introduced her to the Accounting Technician Ireland (ATI) apprenticeship, she knew it was the perfect next step for her.
“I really love working, and the idea of going to college full-time doesn’t fit right with me,” Zima says. “I wanted to gain experience and knowledge immediately after my leaving certificate, and not sit in a class for four years.”
The application process for the apprenticeship includes an application that includes your CV, followed by an interview with ATI. Applicants are then placed on a shortlist that potential employers involved with the apprenticeship program can consult and choose which applicants to call for an interview. Applicants are then called for a final interview, where, if successful, they may be offered a job on the condition that they obtain a reasonable number of marks in the Leaving Certificate Examination, usually in the same subjects as college and There are less marks as compared to university courses. “I think it was more straightforward and user-friendly [than the CAO system],” says Zima.
The apprenticeship itself is a fully funded, work-based learning programme, where apprentices earn at least €19,890 per year. The program is expected to create 125 jobs across the country, and has been the source of 456 apprentice positions since its inception in 2017. ATI now partners with over 302 employers in 17 sectors, a number that continues to grow with each passing year.
Employers are encouraged to sign up for the scheme as they can take advantage of the government annual Aadhaar grant per registered apprentice from the beginning of 2022.
Apprentices work directly with their employers four days a week, and study one day per week at educational institutions located in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Monaghan, Waterford or Wicklow.
Zima took her apprenticeship with leading chartered accountancy firm BDO and studied at BlackRock Forward Education Institute. He completed his two-year apprenticeship at BDO, where he was offered further employment after his apprenticeship. She continued working at BDO for another year, and now works as a Client Accountant with TMF Group, where she is continuing to take the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) examinations.
Mary Leanne, Head of Finance at the National Gallery of Ireland, is pleased with the gallery’s participation in the program, which it has participated in for three years.
“Trainees are not only gaining competency, they are also learning task-based skills, which they can continue to build throughout their careers,” she said. “There are many reasons why someone may not have completed formal training earlier in their career, and apprenticeships provide an opportunity to progress into new roles and fields.”
Lean believes this apprenticeship program works particularly well in that it is just as beneficial for mature students as it is for younger students entering the workforce earlier.
Gabriela Airini, Head of Apprenticeship at ATI, believes that the program is contributing to job creation in many industries, as well as helping the country move towards economic recovery. “Graduates are able to fill all kinds of accounting and finance roles in all sectors of the economy.”
Zima believes that there is not enough awareness about apprenticeship programs and the stigma surrounding such programs persists.
“I think there’s definitely a stigma around it, like ‘oh I’m finishing secondary school – I need to go to college’, and apprenticeships are not promoted as much as a result.”
He believes that while everyone should choose the best course or path for themselves, there should be more focus on apprenticeship. “I think apprenticeship could be even better [than traditional courses]To put their knowledge to practical use, to learn from their own experience and from others in the workplace.
“The experience you get is priceless,” Zima says. “Sometimes you learn a lot more from books than you can at work.”
For more information and to see the full range of apprenticeships on offer, visit apprenticeship.ie, For more information about ATI, see accountingtechnicianSeerland.ie, Note: Excess applications will be open till January 28.