“No GCSEs, A Levels or degrees needed” - but would you get on this training scheme?

New trainees at Grant Thornton accountants, which has said its new recruitment strategy is bringing

New trainees at Grant Thornton accountants, which has said its new recruitment strategy is bringing more young people from different backgrounds to the firm. Picture: submitted - Credit: Archant

GCSE results, A level grades and degree class do not matter - it doesn't sound like the average job description of a financial profession.

Yet school performance and bachelors have been binned as criteria for finding new trainees by an accountancy firm in Norwich - with 'aptitude' and 'potential' setting the goalposts instead.

Since 2013, global tax advisory and accountancy firm Grant Thornton, which has a base at St James' Place, has aimed to broaden its pool of applicants by dropping qualifications from trainee job specifications altogether.

The move has been welcomed by two of Norfolk's leading vocational courses institutions, but has received a mixed response from other large financial firms who fear dropping grades could give youngsters false hopes.

James Brown, regional managing partner for Grant Thornton, said the company had seen a 25pc increase in applications since beginning the scheme - and predicted that next year, 20pc of trainees would never have even applied three years ago.

'By adopting this innovative approach and removing the traditional entry criteria which many professional firms still employ, we can recruit the brightest and best, regardless of background,' said Mr Brown. 'We have met some fantastic young people offering an array of valuable skills who we may not have otherwise encountered.'

Applicants go through an interview and aptitude assessments, winning a place on the company's training scheme if they demonstrate potential - a social inclusivity tactic which should deliver a 'solid commercial advantage' for the group, he said.

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Corienne Peasgood, principal of City College Norwich, said broadening the ways young people are assessed for interview was a very good move.

But she added that testing 'aptitude' could still disadvantage some.

'The good thing here is it understands that many young people's education is disrupted or they excel at a different type of work,' said Mrs Peasgood. 'I'd be interested to see what level they are looking for in aptitude tests. You'd need to know someone's skills to know if they'd perform well in that kind of test.'

Neale McArdle, training director at Norfolk apprenticeship group, Poultec Training, said there was a general shift towards skills among employers.

'There are of course employers who have to look at maths and english, but for most attitude is far more important,' he said. 'It is fair to just look at aptitude and not academics. You could have someone who fits really well with the employer, and if maths isn't needed that's so important.'

Have you got a business story? Contact business editor Ben Woods at ben.woods@archant.co.uk