Aston Villa are moving into the accountancy world – joining forces with South and City College to train recruits from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Midlands’ biggest football club is to work with the Leadership Through Sport and Business charity to pioneer the first apprenticeship scheme of its kind in the region.
The accountancy training programme for 16 to 19 year olds, which has already been introduced at London clubs including West Ham, Chelsea and Leyton Orient, aims to help bridge a looming skills gap, with 700,000 new accountants needed in the UK over the next decade.
Charity operations manager Peter Ward said: “The apprentices tend to be from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“We had some candidates this year whose parents are from low income families.
“We find that the intellectual demands are well within the youngsters’ grasp and the project is about being in a business environment, talking to people they have never met. There will be a total of 20 for the cohort this time. We are recruiting now for a 16-month programme that will start in September, with the 12 -onth apprenticeship starting in January. We have got two months to find 20 candidates.
“It is a full-time course, Monday to Friday. They come on board for 16 months.
“Everyone needs accountants, there will be a demand for 700,000 accountants over the next ten years, it is one of those industries where there will always be work.”
Peter Ward added: “The candidates learn coaching with football clubs, whilst studying accounting.
“This will be the first time it has been rolled out in Birmingham. There has been a scheme in London involving West Ham , Chelsea and Orient and there were pilots at Spurs and Everton – it has been going for four years.
“It is almost 100 per cent in terms of getting a full-time job.
“Football plays a big part in this scheme and it is a way of developing skills through sport.”
James Hinton, fundraising and partnerships executive at Aston Villa, said: “It is a chance to work with the local community and raise aspirations, it ticks all the boxes. Football obviously plays a big part in the scheme. There is a four-month preparatory block and then they will have a year’s apprenticeship with blue chip companies.”
Finance and legal firms already signed up to the scheme include Baker Tilly, Grant Thornton, Barclays, Eversheds and ICAP.
“You do not have to have an interest in football. It is about raising aspirations,” Mr Hinton said.
Pete Ward added: “We are open to anybody. Companies really do want to increase diversity . We recruit through colleges, websites and referring bodies. They study accountancy once a week at the club whilst working.
“Each cohort is a year and a half. This is our fourth group. We have 91 per cent completion of the courses. We are very keen that we get as many young women as possible on the course. Football is not mandatory, they can work with other sports.”