Louise Coffey, Associate Director, Tax, Grant Thornton Ireland 

Louise Coffey
Louise Coffey

One of the most popular routes to becoming a Chartered Accountant or Chartered Tax Advisor is to complete a three-and-half-year Graduate Training Contract.

We anticipate the number of students applying for training contracts this year will be greater as COVID has caused more graduates to return early from travelling or choosing not to take time out to travel.

In addition, there are increased numbers of non-accounting students applying for training contracts due to a reduction in jobs in their area of study. This is all at a time when the number of new training contracts in Northern Ireland may reduce, therefore making it more competitive for students.

So what should students do?

To improve the chance of being offered a training contract, students should consider these five tips:

Attend careers fairs and visit all relevant employers, considering both industry and practice.

Complete at least one summer internship. Many firms offer most of their graduate contracts to students who complete a summer internship with them.

Invest time now on their CV and take action to fill any skill or experience gaps.

Don’t underestimate the time required to complete an application form. Many students use generic answers on application forms and with increased competition for places this could rule them out at the first hurdle.

Prepare for an interview by knowing their CV, having evidence to support skills, show knowledge of the firm, be punctual on the day, and dress appropriately.

As for internships, most universities run internship fairs in early February and many firms’ internship applications run from December to February. There are many benefits to completing a summer internship, and students can complete multiple summer Internships in various firms and roles.

Choosing the firm and role are critical as a training contract is a big commitment, and students should ensure they get the right fit. By experiencing the different firms and roles students can make informed decisions on the best career path for them. When making these decisions, there are a couple of points to bear in mind.

Summer internships are open to accounting and non-accountancy students and will aid in understanding the routes to a professional qualification. Students should ensure they understand the exam support offered by the firms.

And finally, students will meet the people they will be working with daily should they join under a training contract.

Applications for 2021 summer internships with Grant Thornton will be open from December to mid-February.

For further information or advice, Louise Coffey can be contacted at louise.coffey@ie.gt.com

Grant Thornton (NI) LLP specialises in audit, tax and advisory services.