Home and Away

Some qualifications don't travel well, but AAT is not one of them.

According to Chris Casdagli, International Marketing Manager with Hays Accountancy Personnel, accountancy (along with teaching and nursing), is one of the most portable qualifications on the international recruitment market. 'Overseas work experience seems to be the in-thing at the moment' says Chris. 'While my advice would be to go on and complete one of the CCAB qualifications before looking abroad, there are opportunities for Accounting Technicians if you know where to look, although they are more limited'.

The AAT has overseas branches in Botswana, Cyprus, Jamaica, Malaysia, Trinidad & Tobago and Zambia. These are one point of contact in those countries and e-mail addresses are available in the current Directory of Members or from the AAT itself. Branch contacts in these countries may be able to supply information on companies and other organisations in the market for accountancy staff with UK experience. They should also be able to offer guidance on the structure of the AAT branch network within that country and any local education and training arrangements.

The AAT also has 'reciprocal' arrangements with The Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand (ICANZ) and the Association for the Education and Training of Accountants of South Africa (AETA). These are agreements of mutual recognition of the AAT's qualification with those organisations. Two orientation papers have to be passed, to test competence and to ensure that the person can handle the work in that country. This applies to those coming to and moving from the UK. Contact names and e-mail addresses can be obtained on request from the AAT. The two bodies themselves may have information on companies or government bodies who will take on accounting technicians and provide appropriate training or work experience.

The AAT's Education and Training Scheme is also available in several countries outside the UK. This includes; Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Oman, Brunei, South Africa and several Caribbean countries.

Alternatively, you can take the direct approach and look for suitable international organisation and enquire if they take on AATs for their offices overseas. The AAT is working towards developing other reciprocal overseas arrangements, as well as Corporate Training Partnerships (CTP’s) with international companies, both in the UK and abroad. One such Partnership has already been forged with Sandals, an internationally known holiday resort group with locations throughout the Caribbean. Joanne Pearson is Assistant Group Financial Controller at their Montego Bay Head Office, Jamaica. She has been involved in the AAT programme since 1999. 'In Jamaica the AAT qualification is accepted in all accounting departments for the lower level positions' says Joanne.

Prior to being involved with the AAT, sandals as well as other hotels and similar organisations employed people with AAT qualifications. 'We currently have 40 staff group wide who are actively involved in the programme at the Foundation Stage. There are others who will be joining soon. Eleven of our students have been successful in the Central Assessment at the Foundation Stage, and three are awaiting results from the June 2001 sitting' says Joanne.

The National Gas Company of Trinidad & Tobago (NGC) is also an AAT Corporate Training Partner. It uses a number of methods to support and train AAT students, including job rotation, interest free study loans and financial rewards for success. AAT Trinidad & Tobago Branch Secretary Monica Rambert-Naguar is Assistant Accountant at NGC. ‘I am excited that NGC is the first company to obtain CTP status in Trinidad & Tobago and I hope others will follow suit’ she says.

Other companies currently employing and training AAT students and members include Ernst & Young Bahrain, KPMG Gibraltar, PricewaterhouseCoopers Botswana, Gibraltar Telecommunications International, and the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation.

AAT Chief Executive, Janet Scott Paul, says there are others. ‘Hotels and hospitality and professional firms are two sectors. Some of the large mining companies operating in South Africa such as Anglo American have training programmes, and there are also opportunities in some of the large EU organisations.' she says.

Voluntary work is another route to gathering work experience overseas. The Voluntary Service Organisation (VSO) runs schemes in a variety of overseas countries and takes finance staff at all levels. One of the strong points of VSO postings is the opportunity to work at a higher level of responsibility. They look for good soft skills, particularly dealing with and motivating people.

There is no doubt that overseas work experience looks good on a CV, and many overseas companies encourage progression to a full CCAB qualification 'At the very least it is a sign that you have made the effort to do something different' says Chris Casdagli. He also points out that it's more than starting a new job. 'Remember you don't just have to work in the country, you have to socialise and make a life for yourself there, and that adds confidence'

Joanne Pearson agrees. 'The benefits and experience I have gained from my involvement with the AAT have been enormous' she says. 'I have gained experience in staff training and the organisation and administrative skills that go along with it. I have also learned the importance of keeping a portfolio of my own achievements for future reference' she adds.

Chief Executive Jane Scott Paul also points out the NVQ factor in the AAT qualification. 'Although we may not have reciprocal arrangements with a particular country, or have an Education and Training scheme operating there, remember that the AAT qualification is NVQ based and should be recognised as of NVQ status overseas.

Not every qualifying AAT will want to go on and complete a sponsoring body's CCAB examinations. This may mean there are less options open should they want to gain overseas work experience, but it need not prevent them doing so. The market may be different but it is still there. You may have to look harder and longer for the right post, but it could be worth the wait.

So don't put that passport away just yet.

Tom Kelly is a freelance journalist

This article was specially commissioned for Accounting Technician Online

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