PKF Francis Clark: Why we’re supporting the One Million Chances campaign

Amy Taylor, chief people officer at PKF Francis Clark. 

Training and development for aspiring accountants has come a long way since our founder Frank Clark was an articled clerk in Southern Rhodesia more than a century ago.

Today the firm of chartered accountants and business advisers that still bears his name, PKF Francis Clark, employs over 750 people across eight offices, in Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, Poole, Salisbury, Taunton, Torquay and Truro.

As the largest independent accountancy firm in the South West and a significant regional employer, growing our own talent is an important part of our culture and key to our success. It not only makes good business sense, ensuring we have the breadth of skills we need to serve our diverse client base. We also take pride in providing rewarding career opportunities in a part of the country where many young people often feel they need to move away to the big cities to achieve their ambitions. 

We like to think we’re doing our bit to reverse this brain drain by enabling talented young people to gain professional qualifications through a combination of work and study, and to enjoy long-term career progression while pursuing their interests in a wide variety of specialisms, from audit and tax to corporate finance and financial planning. 

Opportunities for young people at PKF Francis Clark 

Each year we offer apprenticeship programmes for up to 80 trainees as part of our mission to develop our next generation of accounting, business and tax advisers. Young people usually join us in January and September. These qualifications develop the technical knowledge, experiences and behaviours required by accomplished accounting or tax professionals.  

Apprenticeships are very important to us as a firm and we have two main entry routes for accountancy trainees: Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and Association of Chartered Accountants (ACA). 

Aimed at school leavers, the AAT apprenticeship combines learning on the job with attending college one day a week, leading to a Level 3 or 4 qualification. 

Our ACA trainees are graduates who work towards a level 7 qualification and becoming chartered accountants. They attend Reed Business School, a residential learning centre in the Cotswolds, on a block release basis. Since the pandemic, students can choose between residential courses or online learning. We recognise that people have different learning styles and offering choices as to how they study gives them the best chance of success. 

We also offer specialist tax apprenticeship routes for young people – usually graduates – who are interested in becoming a chartered tax adviser. Students build their knowledge of the world of tax both by working with experienced colleagues and attending courses with our training partner, Tolley. Recently, this learning has been delivered online due to Covid-19. 

With teams specialising in a wide range of sectors and services, from agriculture to manufacturing and business recovery to VAT and customs, we offer our trainees an interesting variety of work during their apprenticeships, giving them a chance to choose the career path that’s right for them. 

As well as the training we deliver in-house and with our providers in the UK, as a member of the PKF International network of over 220 independent accountancy firms in 150 countries, our people can access a range of learning resources through the PKF Hub, such as attending webinars with colleagues around the world. Our in-house training experts also contribute to this forum for sharing best practices. 

To raise awareness of the wealth of opportunities on offer at PKF Francis Clark, we regularly attend careers fairs at Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Plymouth, Southampton, Bournemouth, UWE and Cardiff universities. We have also supported the ICAEW – the professional body for chartered accountants in England and Wales – to deliver workshops at these universities. 

In addition, we offer work experience placements for school and university students and are currently looking at ways to widen our engagement with schools across our region. 

Why we’re supporting the One Million Chances campaign 

We recognise that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on young people, disrupting their studies as well as their social lives and limiting their opportunities to find work experience placements or jobs, as many employers have been forced to reduce staff numbers or put their usual recruitment plans on hold. This is not just unfair on them, but potentially a huge waste of talent for UK plc. 

The One Million Chances campaign is an excellent initiative to tackle this issue. Young people leaving school, college or university this summer – or those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic – deserve opportunities to realise their potential and embark on a fulfilling career. 

We understand that investing in recruiting, developing and retaining talented young people will be vital to our continued success as a business in the years ahead. Perhaps the best proof of this is that several of our current partners joined the firm as graduate trainees. 

Liam Dushynsky, who started his career with PKF Francis Clark in 2005 and is now a partner in our VAT and customs team, said: 'The beauty of a firm our size is you can gain experience in all departments and then pursue your interest in the area you excel in. 

'What I love about my work is solving real business issues for our clients. The stereotype of accountants just crunching numbers is long gone – our job is about helping people do business. 

'I’ve learned something new every day, and I gain a lot of satisfaction from seeing my team grow in knowledge and expertise.'

Who knows, the young people with us on work experience this summer could be our partners of the future. 

More information can be found at

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