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Are Study Fees Holding You Back?

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As a part-qualified accountant, there is one dilemma that you may well have to face before, or soon after, you qualify – should you stay or should you go?

It is fairly common practice for an employer to pay the study fees to enable a PQ candidate to complete their training on the job - earning while gaining valuable experience in an accounting or finance role. Understandably, the employer would like a return on that investment and so expects the employee to stay with them not only for the length of the training, but also once newly-qualified. To protect their investment, it is also the norm to tie the employee into a contract, the breaking of which would demand the repayment of some of those study fees.

The threat of this penalty payment has the desired negative effect on most candidates, successfully putting them off moving roles. However, some don’t let it trouble them, grabbing a new opportunity with both hands if it’s the right move for their career. So, how do you make the decision to stay with the employer who facilitated your training or leave for a new opportunity?

As a recruiter, you might expect us to side with the client employer and urge a candidate to stay put, however, the employer has a responsibility to the trainee accountant too, and in most cases, it comes down to the experience that the candidate has had with the employer throughout the studying period.

For example, if an employer promised to rotate a candidate around different areas of the business to enable them to gain experience, when in reality they were hired to fill a specific gap in a team, then a candidate might feel misled. Millennials in particular prefer to manage their own destiny and try multiple options before choosing their own path. If this proposition was sold to them but never happened, a candidate can feel trapped or, worse, let down by the employer.

If the experience with an employer is negative during qualification, then the same scenario will be present upon qualification - can a candidate trust the same employer to help them achieve their career ambitions? Will the options be there to gain more experience?

The employer has a duty to try its best to retain all candidates, beyond just the threat of repaying fees. If the average tenure for millennials across all industries is two years, then asking someone to study and work for up to three years just to reach accreditation requires more effort. Understanding the candidate’s ambitions, strengths and weaknesses, as well as communicating with them throughout the year, is vital. If not, then the ambitious PQ or NQ candidate has every right to look elsewhere.