Is education the key for employers?

February 3, 2020

Karen Thomson, head of payroll and partner at Armstrong Watson, has worked in the HR, finance, pensions and payroll industry for most of her career. She sits on several Government payroll consultation forums and is a Chartered Member of, and lecturer for, the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP). Here, she reflects on the importance of businesses preparing young people for work

Having spent many years as a tutor for payroll qualifications, I’ve seen first-hand how education can support employers, but I recognise that one style of learning does not work for everyone. When recruiting a young person who’s entering the workplace for the first time, employers expect certain attributes. These include literacy skills (while accepting and accommodating those who have learning disabilities); confidence and the ability to challenge appropriately; an understanding of employment rights (National Minimum Wage, the right to a payslip and, importantly, understanding what the payslip information means etc) and a certain degree of flexibility. But the education sector cannot be expected to provide these skills and attitudes alone. Businesses can play a huge part in preparing youngsters for the world of work by collaborating with schools and further education establishments. For example:

Working with education

Creating opportunities for business and youngster interactions is very important – from shaping aspirations within primary school children by opening them up to ideas about the type of jobs they might eventually like to do, through to working with secondary school students, offering support and mentoring around the skills they might need and real-life work experience. As a business, Armstrong Watson chooses to go one step further by supporting youth schemes to encourage the development of non-academic skills.


Apprenticeships are probably the most obvious example of education and business working together. They’re often marketed to school leavers but can be applied to further education students too. As an employer, one of the financial advantages of utilising an apprenticeship scheme is the Government funding available (assuming the criteria are met). Unfortunately, the scheme has had some issues, with many employers not understanding how they can access the scheme and confusing the actual training and funding available – this is to be reviewed thankfully – with the Apprenticeship Levy monetary charges on larger employers operated via the payroll process.

Does formal education make a difference?

Within the accountancy sector, it is rightly expected that accountants will be qualified, but often this isn’t applied to other vocations. From my perspective as a payroll professional, I believe that having a team that is either fully qualified or studying towards a qualification – and members of the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals – does make a difference; especially for young people entering into the profession. My colleagues and I have experience of helping so many through the education process and find it offers additional confidence and pride in what they are doing, which the regular working environment might not be able to achieve. It can also demonstrate commitment to an employer from the individual, as well as providing the required technical skills. To conclude, education and business should be a partnership, and together we can ensure the UK has the highest skills to make us a productive and prosperous country in which to do business.

Armstrong Watson
Contact Karen on karen.thomson@armstrongwatson. or 0808 144 5575

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