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Case study - BFS Accountants Ltd

For local accountancy practice managing director Craig Benford, his apprentices’ attitudes, good character and willingness to fit into the business ‘family’ is just as important as learning the accounting skills.

A wealth of opportunity for accountancy apprentices

For local accountancy practice managing director Craig Benford, his apprentices’ attitudes, good character and willingness to fit into the business ‘family’ is just as important as learning the accounting skills.

Craig owns BFS Accountants Ltd, situated in Ransom Wood Business Park, which was established in 2010, but operated as a sole trader for nine years prior to that. The company has satellite offices both in Chesterfield and Nottingham. Over the last ten years, business has flourished and Craig has used the services of West Nottinghamshire College’s apprenticeship service to support his business.

Craig said: “I am passionate about the role I do, so the people who come to work here need to be passionate too. People also have a degree of flexibility here at BFS, so they’re comfortable at work. I class them as family not just employees; they spend a lot of time here at work.

“When I look to recruit apprentices, experience isn’t that relevant to me. I don’t just take on anyone - I’d rather them fit in as genuine people. Apprentices need to be able to communicate, interact well with clients and the other staff. That’s absolutely essential. I employed these three apprentices because they have those great personalities.”

Current apprentices at BFS are 18-year-old Jen Rowton, and Liam Larkin and Brandon Blore – both 21. Jen began at the practice in February 2020 whilst on work placement. She enjoyed the experience and was taken on as an apprentice accountant the following month.

Jen said: “I’ve always been good with numbers and I achieved a grade A at GCSE. I knew that I wanted to get my studying done at a young age, so I’ve been very fortunate to work at BFS and have my training on the apprenticeship supported by Craig.

“I’m studying the Accounting Professional Diploma Level 3 now which I started in September. Eventually I’d like to do the Level 4 and then get the ACCA to be a fully-qualified accountant. Here I get to work on clients’ VAT and payroll and admin. We’ve had a very busy time in January, which is typical in the world of accounts.

“For me, the biggest benefit of being an apprentice is all the great learning on the job. I get the knowledge on my college course, but the building blocks are actually putting that learning into practice in the office. Everyone is so supportive and helpful in answering my questions.”

Brandon Blore joined the company in September 2020, having had the experience of working at two other accountancy practices. Now studying at Level 4, his ambition is to eventually get Chartered Accountant status.

Brandon said: “Some of the top attributes you need in this sector as an apprentice are being willing to learn, be really good at taking notes and learn things from more senior staff. You’ll get so much experience from actually doing the tasks. The more you work with clients, the better practiced you’ll become.

“I really enjoying new things and I get a real buzz from seeing my skills develop and noticing I am making fewer mistakes. I think in this sector the apprenticeship route is the best one to follow. I’m getting training on the job and the company’s support and flexibility is great. I could have gone down the university route, but I preferred to come and get the experience on the job whilst studying. Craig is brilliant to work for and supports us all to do our best.”

Liam Larkin is the newest apprentice at BFS, having only joined in early January. He’s due to commence the Level 2 qualification in accounting, which he will follow online, whilst the classroom restrictions are in place due to the pandemic.

Liam said: “Prior to working here I’d worked at Center Parcs and had just started my Level 2 qualification. I’m looking forward to starting that once again.

“The team have made me feel very welcome already – it’s a happy office and there’s a great mix of hard work and flexibility – we really feel at home. So far, I’ve been working on VAT and personal tax for the clients we work with. I also work on filing and the fetching of paperwork from clients around the area. Also, I take messages and answer questions over the phone.

“Being an apprentice means you receive on-the-job training which can really expand your skills, plus you’re getting loads of experience that you need in order to be successful in the future.

Craig added: “The apprentices all seem to be settling in very well, they’re enjoying their roles and I’ve had great support from the college in getting them where they’re meant to be.

“We’re quite different to most accountancy practice. We aren’t just about the numbers, I like to value my employees and clients as people as well.

“I enjoy enabling our staff to grow with the company and we help small businesses to grow as well. A lot of the clients who are referred to me are small start-up businesses and we help them to grow and guide them over the years.

“By doing the same for our apprentices we’re helping to build better business communities together.”

West Nottinghamshire College’s apprenticeships and project manager Karen Millward said: “We’ve worked with BFS Accountants for over four years now and we’re very grateful to see just how Craig sees the many benefits that employing apprentices can bring and he works hard to encourage them.

“It’s great to see a local business clearly thriving and growing, passing on the sector’s knowledge to new generations of accountants and it’s also good to know that the apprentices are really embracing the training available to them both from the college as well as their new colleagues.”


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