Sophie's choice: 'I turned down two CAO offers to embark on an apprenticeship programme in accounting'
Accounting was Sophie Ellis' preferred career destination and the study of it dominated her course selections on the CAO form two years ago.
When August came around, she received two CAO offers but, by then, her aunt, an accountant, had alerted her to the new Accounting Technicians Ireland (ATI) apprenticeship programme, and she turned both college offers down.
Sophie, 20, from Balbriggan, Co Dublin, researched and applied for the ATI programme and decided that even if she didn't get a place immediately, it was the better option for her and would try again the next year if necessary.
She needn't have worried; Sophie was offered an apprenticeship with leading financial services company Grant Thornton and so began her two-year journey to a Level 6 qualification, which is almost complete.
The ATI programme, which comes with a minimum wage of €19,000 a year, has proved very popular, with 88 apprenticeship signings in 2018, up from 71 in 2017, its first year.
Sophie says what attracted her to the apprenticeship route was "the type of exposure you get into the world of accountancy. You learn what's in the books, which is important, but also you get to experience real life scenarios to see if you will be able to perform in the accountancy world".
And she places a high value on the level of support afforded to apprentices: "You have a college mentor and a workplace mentor, not to mention the support from ATI."
As the apprenticeship comes to an end, Sophie has a number of choices: enter third year of a full-time, college degree course, or stay with the company and build her professional qualifications. Sophie is opting for the latter, and her next step is a three-year work/study programme leading to taxation exams.