Getting stuck in! - Thoughts on my first couple of months as an Audit Wales audit trainee
Matthew Argyle blogs about his experience
Starting a new job is tough. When it’s in the middle of a global pandemic and the job is your first full-time professional one it’s tougher still. Nevertheless, the trainees of the 2020 cohort couldn’t have received a warmer welcome to Audit Wales!
By the end of the first week we had already met the Auditor General for Wales and been introduced to parts of the business ranging from data analytics to counter-fraud. The pace didn’t let up in the second week when we were given a glimpse into the bewildering world of accountancy from trainees who’d joined in previous years and an introduction to audit skills from members of the financial audit team. All these introductions were interspersed with lots of opportunities to get to know one another as a cohort with plenty of the dreaded icebreakers! The fact we’d had a few meetings via video call prior to starting helped make the whole process less daunting.
After the initial two weeks of induction we went to work within our financial audit clusters. The South Wales 1 trainees were tasked with a project to help develop a set of resources for everyone within Audit Wales to use when running virtual workshops and focus groups. The four of us were given a brief and largely left to our own devices to work out how we’d achieve it. This was a fantastic opportunity for the SW1 trainees to get to know each other. I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom we were given to complete the project in our own way, and I think it says a lot about an organisation if it invests so much trust in people as new as us to get on with the task at hand.
The following week involved meeting even more people from even more parts of the organisation. We had sessions with everyone from the Investigative Studies Team to the team responsible for auditing the government of Anguilla. This was also the week we started real audit work and I, like the other SW1 trainees, was allocated to grants certification work for some south Wales local authorities. As with any new job you often find yourself thinking that you have no idea what’s going on and that everyone’s speaking in a foreign language, but we all had as much support as we needed from our audit teams. No question was too small or too stupid!
During this time, we were also tasked with projects to support the work of the Good Practice Exchange Team. All the 2020 trainees and apprentices were split into teams and given a specific task to work on – these ranged from creating a podcast to evaluating good practice related to the Violence Against Women and Domestic Abuse Act. At the end of the week we presented our findings to the Auditor General, several directors, and the Good Practice Team – pretty daunting when you’ve only been in the job for a month! Nonetheless, every team received excellent feedback and it was great to see everyone doing so well.
Our first week of proper professional training took place in early November and was something of a shock to the system! Having come straight from university the biggest surprise to me was the pace of learning, it was definitely more intense than anything I had experienced for a few years! Having said that, the tutors are very supportive, and it helps to have the support network of your fellow trainees who are all going through the same thing. The resources provided to support your learning are excellent and I personally found I quickly started to get to grips with the material when I started practicing it. As everyone I spoke to told me, as long as you do the practice questions you should be fine! The exam is in December, so we’ll have to wait and see!
After training it was back into financial audit work. For me this meant joining a new team and auditing charitable funds. A different challenge to what I’d been doing before, but with the same excellent support from the whole team!
Looking back on my first couple of months now I can see that it was somewhat intense, but it never felt overwhelming. I feel that the best way to get to know a job is to throw yourself in headfirst, and we definitely got that opportunity with the programme Audit Wales put on for us.
As I settle into the job a bit more and get to know more and more people, I feel increasingly comfortable in my decision to join Audit Wales. It is a friendly and welcoming workplace doing interesting and important work.
As trainees we have been fully supported to work from home with the business providing whatever equipment we need to do so safely from chairs to desks to monitors. We’ve also all been participating in a staff wellbeing challenge, which has been a great opportunity to get to know even more people in a more relaxed and informal setting.
Prior to joining Audit Wales, I was studying a Master’s degree in Politics and Public Policy and working as a research assistant in the same field, not what you’d call a typical accounting background! I was worried my academic background would count against me or make it harder to grasp the training, but it simply hasn’t been the case. No one in my cohort has an accounting or finance background and, in fact, I’ve met auditors in the organisation with backgrounds ranging from pharmacy to physics to French and German.
Maybe there is no such thing as a typical accounting background after all!
As the weeks turn into months I look forward to seeing what else my career at Audit Wales has in store for me!
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Before joining Audit Wales, Matthew Argyle was a master’s student and research assistant in the department of politics and international relations at Cardiff University. He’s from Cardiff and is a fluent Welsh speaker. Matthew enjoys cycling, hiking, and generally being outdoors.