“It’s clear to us that our clients are changing in terms of the types of individuals that they are and what they represent,” he says. “We need our people to represent that same breadth of experience and backgrounds.”
At its core, KPMG360° is about ending the firm’s reliance on graduates when it comes to new talent. It’s a mission shared by many large accounting practices. Grant Thornton, for example, has pledged to recruit and develop more staff from varied backgrounds.
“Historically, with professional services, and certainly in large firms, we have defined talent in a pretty narrow way,” says Walby. “That definition has been based largely around academic performance.”
KPMG has committed to addressing this issue in a big way. KPMG360° takes school leavers who have completed their A Levels and puts them through a three-year crash course in all things KPMG. The apprentices work in every department at the organisation while completing the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) qualification up to Professional level.
Once they finish the course and have tried every accounting discipline, they can choose a specialism and take a relevant chartered course, or stop their training to take a relevant role within the business.
No matter what they choose to do, they come out at the end as all-rounders, with experience of every function, in addition to their qualification.
“That all-rounder point is really important,” says Kathryn Roberts, senior manager of KPMG360°. “We want them to gain a really diverse range of experience. Our clients come to us with a broad range of issues, and our apprentices will be able to draw on that experience and apply it within the context of their own specialism, no matter what that might be.”
The AAT qualification was deemed the most suitable course for KPMG360°, due to the broad understanding of accounting principles that it instils in students.
“I think part of it is about the reputation of the qualification,” says Roberts. “I think it’s important that any qualification we offer has weight in the marketplace.”
KPMG360° launched in London in 2015, with 110 apprentices in its first intake. To encourage those apprentices to apply, KPMG’s student recruitment team visited local schools and colleges.
The aim was to attract people from diverse backgrounds, some of whom do not always know about apprenticeships, or have the self-belief to apply.
“A lot of the work our team does is around increasing aspirations and building confidence to come and apply to firms like ours,” says Roberts.
When developing the scheme, the firm found that school-leavers often struggle to decide what they want to do or how they want their career to develop. The programme is structured to give apprentices a chance to try new things before they make a decision about the direction of their career.
The programme is also structured to ensure that the same options for progression are open to both graduates and apprentices. “I hope we’ll see our apprentices make their way to partner if that’s what they want to do,” says Roberts. “There is certainly no ceiling on their progression.”
“They have an almost entrepreneurial spirit in many ways,” she adds. “They’re really hungry and enthusiastic for the opportunity, and they’re looking to seek out new ideas and perspectives. They do bring something different, which is great.”