Professional services company KPMG has initiated a school leavers' programme that will eventually pay the university fees of up to 400 participants annually, broadening the range of entrants to the accountancy profession.
Starting this September, the KPMG scheme will sponsor five students attending Durham University as part of a six-year course of education, including a university degree and an accountancy qualification from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).
The firm hopes that eventually the majority of its annual intake will be made up of the scheme’s graduates, amounting to more than 400 people a year.
Students will receive a salary throughout the period, starting at £20,000.
The idea has won Government backing, with minister for universities and science, David Willetts MP, saying: "I warmly welcome this scheme, as it provides a new entry route to a prestigious profession for people from a wide range of backgrounds. I hope other employers and universities will study the concept carefully."
KPMG’s UK head of audit, Oliver Tant, said he believed the scheme would increase diversity among employees.
"For us, one of the key things is to promote fair access to the profession by ensuring the greatest number of young people possible go to university – and also have the potential to train as an accountant," Tant said.
Tom Galvin, MD of property maintenance company Adrem, which has recently paid for a young employee to gain professional qualifications while he worked, said that by funding the training or education of new workers employees are able to tailor their values to those of the business.
"The big plus from the employer’s point of view is that you can get the person you want. You can craft the person," Galvin said. "If you recruit someone from outside your system, they don’t have your values, which are core to a good business."
Michael Izza, chief executive at ICAEW, said: "Widening access to professional qualifications can be a major driver of social mobility.
"This won’t just make access to our profession fairer; it will also help boost the UK’s competitiveness by ensuring we can make the most of talent from across the whole spectrum of society."
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