Lucy Thomas: Schools Talent Engagement Officer – PWC

Applications are opening

What are the upcoming application openings and opportunities that students should be aware of post exam results?

Our School and College Leaver programmes, including our Flying Start Accounting Degree, will open for applications in September for a September 2024 start date. Keep an eye out on our website to check when they go live. You can also sign up to our Talent Community to receive updates and information about our opportunities and events.

If you want to follow the traditional university pathway, you can also join us through our undergraduate and graduate opportunities.

Could you share some information on the types of opportunities available?

At PwC we offer school and college leaver opportunities that empower you to choose the career path that’s right for you. We offer programmes in our Tax, Consulting and Operate lines of service where you can go straight into an office-based role and study to gain professional qualifications while learning on-the-job.

We also offer Flying Start Degree Programmes in Accounting, Business Management or Technology which offer you the opportunity to start a career and gain a degree at the same time. You can earn a salary and fast-track your career while studying for your chosen subject. As part of our Accounting Flying Start programme you’ll have three paid work placements with us whilst studying towards your ICAEW Chartered Accountant qualification. You’ll complete 80% of your ICAEW exams on the degree, which means you’ll be just over a year away from fully qualifying once you graduate. Whichever programme you choose, you’ll work on a range of projects in a culture that embraces difference and encourages you to think imaginatively.

How do students apply for the opportunities and how should they prepare?

For our School and College Leaver programmes, our Flying Start Business Management degree and the ‘work-first’ model of our Flying Start Technology Degree, students will apply via our website. You may only apply for one role from this list once every six months.

For our Flying Start Accounting and ‘study-first’ Flying Start Technology Degree, students will apply via UCAS using the specific course codes. You can apply for multiple Flying Start Degree programmes but each application to each University will count as one of your UCAS options. As each university is unique, they all have their own admissions policy to consider applications, so you’ll need to visit the university pages for specific admissions requirements. If you have successfully been accepted onto the university course, you’ll then complete the remainder of the recruitment process with PwC.

Before taking the step to apply for a programme, you should consider your suitability for the role(s). This is particularly important if you’re unsure about which programme you’d be best suited to.

You should consider your skills and experience before applying to any role. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you enjoy?
  • Is this the best route for you?
  • Do you want to study towards a professional qualification?
  • Are you eligible for the role?
  • Are there any deadlines?

Once you’ve researched the role and have made the decision to apply, you’ll make an application. Our application form is straight forward – used to collect your personal information. So, it’s important to make sure you enter your details correctly should we need to contact you. There is no requirement to prepare a CV or cover letter as part of your application. In the form, you’ll need to add your predicted grades. If you’re yet to get these for a particular subject, speak to your teacher/s and ask if they can help.

In the application form, be sure to tell us if there are any circumstances that may have affected your performance during exams or your predicted grades, for example illness or family commitments. Similarly, please tell us if you have any reasonable adjustments so that we can accommodate your needs during the application process.

What advice would you give students to help them stand out in their applications?

As our application form is to gather your details, there isn’t anything specific you need to share with us at this stage to stand out. Throughout the rest of the process however, we suggest that you research the PwC Professional framework, which explains the skills that we look for not just in the recruitment process, but also amongst our employees at all levels globally. You can find out more about the PwC Professional and guidance about each stage of the process on our Employability Hub.

Are there any student success stories you can share?

You can read blogs from apprentices and students on our School and College Leaver programmes here.

What advice would you give to students starting out on their early career journey and exploring opportunities?

Three areas you should consider when exploring career opportunities are self-assessment, research and time.

Self-assessment is an important step in helping you to start your career, so it’s the perfect time to do some self-reflection and think about what you can offer.  Consider all of your experience and skills (from your studies, hobbies, and other extra-curricular activities):

  • What are your strengths and what do you enjoy doing?
  • Assess your current skill set – are there areas you want to improve? How do your skills match what companies are looking for? For example, we use the PwC Professional Framework.
  • Are you applying via the correct route? For example, we have many different options with specific eligibility criteria. It’s essential that you ensure you’re eligible to apply for a role before doing so.

Research: The effort you put in now will pay off in your application and future stages of the process. See what you can find out about:

  • Different roles – the type of work you might do and if you’re suited to this.
  • The profession – what would the career path look like? Is there a professional qualification? Would there be travel involved?
  • The organisation – what type of work do they do? Who are their clients? Have they been featured in the news recently? What are their values and culture?
  • Use your networks – who do you know who you can speak to about their job and what it entails. Consider what resources you have that you can use, e.g. a Careers Advisor at your school or college.

Time: Take time to prepare in advance of making your application and consider the following:

  • Check to see if there’s a deadline to submit your application and give yourself enough time.
  • Some employers will recruit on a rolling ‘first come first served’ basis, so again it’s important to think about making your application as early as you can to avoid disappointment.
  • Check you have all the information to hand that you need to complete your application.

​Preparing for interview and assessment centres

What is your number one tip for a young person when preparing for an assessment centre/interview?

Research the company and role for which you’re applying. It’s important to have good knowledge of the company, the job and the structure of the programme, not only to demonstrate your understanding of the role to the assessor/interviewer but also to ensure that you’re applying to a role that suits you and your skills too.

What advice would you give to a young person to overcome nerves on the day of an assessment centre/interview?

Preparation is key to reducing nerves during an assessment centre or interview. Before the day, make sure you have researched and practised possible questions you may be asked or tasks you might complete. If it’s a virtual assessment centre/interview, ensure you have the right equipment and have tested your technology beforehand.

On the day itself give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the assessment centre/interview or access the platform if it’s virtual. This will allow you to get settled, have a glass of water, take some deep breaths and relax before you start. Finally, remember to smile and be yourself – an assessment centre or interview ultimately provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and tell us about yourself, so try to enjoy it.

What differentiates a strong candidate from their peers?

We look for candidates to demonstrate the attributes outlined in our PwC Professional framework. These are: Whole leadership, Business acumen, Technical and digital, Global and inclusive, and Relationships.

A strong candidate will be able to tell us why they’re interested in a career with us, and demonstrate the skills and behaviours we are looking for in the role to which they’re applying.

What is your top tip for a group assessment?

Actively listen to other’s views and be respectful, even if their perspective is different from your own. Support and encourage your peers to collaborate and engage with the group discussion, sharing and building up on each other’s ideas to enable a flowing conversation.

What advice would you give to students to make themselves stand out?

There are a few points of advice I would share:

  • Showcase your understanding of the role and the research you’ve done into the company.
  • Stay positive – nobody expects you to be perfect in all tasks/questions, so don’t dwell on errors. Accept them, move on quickly and concentrate on the next task/question.
  • Be yourself and let your personality shine.

​Entry pathways/routes to the profession

​What are the different entry routes students could take to get into a career in accountancy?

At PwC, students can join our Audit line of service in several ways:

  • Straight from school or college via the Flying Start Accounting Degree programme
  • As an undergraduate during a summer internship or work placement, or
  • As a graduate after completing their degree (in any subject).

You could also work in accounting through joining our Operate line of service in Belfast as a school leaver – you could study towards either the Certificate in Finance Accounting and Business or Accounting Technicians Ireland with potential to study towards a Chartered Accounting qualification afterwards.

What advice would you give students who are unsure of the entry pathway that is best for them?

Deciding your career journey can be tough. At PwC we have a tool called ‘Career Uncovered’ which aims to help you learn more about us and the values we expect of our people to share insights and help you evaluate the different routes into PwC. It’s a good idea to check out this tool to determine which pathway is best for you.

Also, you can visit our events page and take the opportunity to meet our people and find out more about their personal experiences to ease your decision making.

What kind of support/mentoring do companies typically offer to students completing their exams depending on which early careers programme they are on?

For students that undertake a professional qualification with us, we’ll financially support you through your exams and help you prepare with study and exam leave. Plus, you’ll have support from a wide range of people along the way – from expert tutors and a dedicated Early Careers Team, as well as your Career Coach and peers. You can find out more about the training and development we offer here.