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ICAEW work experience toolkit

ICAEW has created this work experience toolkit to help you get the most out of your time with your employer while also giving you the chance to contribute to the business and share your ideas.


Using the work experience toolkit

This toolkit contains a series of tasks and questionnaires that you should complete during your placement. The various exercises will introduce you to accounts preparation, which forms the basis of much of the work in an accountancy firm, and also to specific concepts and terminology used by accountants.

If your work experience is for two weeks, we recommend you focus on the five accounting activities in the first week. Then, in the second week, spend more time on the business analysis project, so you can consider the issue more carefully and develop your ideas more thoroughly.

You should spend some time on your work experience considering some of the soft skills needed to be a great chartered accountant. These might be skills that you don’t associate with careers in accountancy but we have some videos for you to watch to show why they are so vital. After watching the videos and understanding the different skills try to think about how you will develop these on your work experience and log these in your workbook.

As a starting point, we suggest you focus on the content outlined below. 

Student toolkit: Daily planner

Student toolkit: Developing your soft skills

About a business

A business can be set up in many different ways and the three most common are:

  • sole traders; 
  • partnerships and
  • limited companies. 

A sole trader owns and runs his or her own business. A partnership is owned and run by two or more individuals in the same business, such as a firm of accountants or a firm of solicitors.

A limited company is owned by shareholders and run by directors. In a small company these could be the same people. Other structures include charities, clubs and associations and pension schemes.

Student toolkit: About a business

Student toolkit: Business worksheets 

VAT Guidance

All businesses must become VAT registered when their annual turnover (i.e., sales in the year) reaches a certain level (currently £83,000). Once it is VAT registered, the business must charge VAT on its goods and services which is then paid to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC). 

A VAT registered business may also reclaim the VAT it has had to pay on business expenditure. The following example shows why the tax is called value added tax.

The Decision – Decision Making

In this video you will see the importance of using information available to you to help formulate decisions you’re making. At times there might be a daunting amount of information to face but approaching in a measured way will help you justify your decision making process.

The Email – Consideration

In this scenario you will see that a project group has been working on a combined document that is due to go to management. Jake’s section is missing so Mark has gone to find out why this is. In the workplace you should always consider the impact your actions have on others both within the organisation and outside.

The Kitchen – Problem Solving

Working in chartered accountancy requires working as part of a team problem solving to help colleagues or clients. You’ll see in this video how sharing ideas with colleagues can be a valuable process. However you will also see how distracting others can be if they are not effectively contributing to the team.

The Rushed Job – Communication

Pursuing a career in chartered accountancy means you are respected as a trusted business professional and because of this you must act appropriately at all times. Sometimes this might involve handling difficult conversations with colleagues, managers or clients but if it results in the work being completed to the expected standard this must always be done.

The Spreadsheet – Technical Competence

Chartered accountants are renowned for their technical ability based on the training they’ve been through to complete the ACA qualification. During your work experience take the opportunity to learn from others but also share your knowledge and expertise to help colleagues.

The Workload – Team working

Chartered accountants rarely work in alone isolation so to be successful in this career you must be a team player who is happy to contribute to common goals. This will involve working collaboratively on group assignments and projects but also involves knowing when to offer help to others when they need it.

Business Analysis – your guide

Chartered accountants don’t just balance the books. They also offer strategic business advice that can help companies make more money or attract more customers.

They must be able to scrutinise what works and what doesn’t, figure out what and how things can be improved and identify key opportunities and seize them. In short, they need to know how to carry out business analysis.

This business analysis project includes four simple steps, which are looked at in more detail in the PDF

  1. Pinpoint what you need to analyse
  2. Identify who should talk to
  3. Pick a tried and tested business analysis technique
  4. Report what you have learned, and what you think should happen next

Student toolkit: Business Analysis