Future relevance, employability, community: advisory group ideas to benefit next generation

11 June 2024

Members of the advisory groups and AAT staff pose for a picture in Canary Wharf

AAT’s employer, student and training provider advisory groups gathered once more to share their views to help shape the future of accountancy and the journeys of the next generation. 

Members of the Advisory Groups brought together by AAT had the opportunity to meet each other on Friday 17 May in London, some for the first time.  

The groups found their genesis last year as three groups variously containing current AAT students, employer partners, and training providers supporting learners with AAT – each representing different customers and types of relationship with AAT: all bringing their own valuable knowledge and insights. 

Group members said they were proud to have been selected to share their views, and felt it was an honour to be contributing to improved experiences and opportunities available for  generations of learners, employers and training providers to come.  

We share some of their key insights below. 

Tailoring the student experience 

Amongst the student group, AAT’s primary question was “what more can we do to support you?” and the answers followed common themes around a desire for a sense of community and better, more tailored student experiences. 

Students said they wanted more personalised feedback and more practice exams. But they also expressed a wish for the organisations they interact with to get the balance right between tailored, data-informed communications, and the need to respect their privacy and personal data. 

Suggestions were put forward to improve community experiences, such as bringing people together more closely through digital platforms to help them connect with peers despite geographic barriers. 

Online spaces were seen by some – such as neurodiverse AAT student Joshua Barlow—, as key to overcoming less obvious barriers to teaching and learning. Joshua has spoken out before about the challenges faced by neurodiverse learners such as himself in the past.  

For some learners, digital forums can be a more comfortable space to break down course content and put forward questions without the social pressure of traditional classroom or video conferencing settings. 

Further support would be considered by AAT to support diverse student needs, including the opportunity of a digital-first approach– a key element of its recently launched strategic plan. AAT is exploring ways to harness technology for a more tailored student experience, along with enhanced opportunities for improved community engagement and interaction. 

Meanwhile, work was already underway to improve the student onboarding experience, with the first cohort of new students set to benefit from positive changes in this summer. However, feedback from the Group would still be invaluable to fine-tuning the improvements and AAT’s thinking going forward. 

Sarah Beale talks to advisory groups in a discussion session at the AAT office

Listening key to future relevance, lifelong learning – Beale  

Another key theme for the day was relevance. 

Feedback from the student group was that learners wanted to be supported in the ‘here and now’, but also desired a sustained connection to AAT as they progress in their studies and careers. They described AAT as not just a ‘chapter’ in their life to move on from, but a lifelong journey of learning, and doing, and giving back, within a professional community. 

Similarly, as the accountancy profession evolved: employers and training providers said they wanted to see ongoing relevance of the qualifications content AAT offers, to ensure future relevance and employability of those who chose the AAT pathway. 

Future relevance and boosting employability were both major focuses for AAT, said chief executive Sarah Beale 

She told the groups over a shared lunch AAT valued their input, thanking participants on behalf of the next generation of students, employers and educators.  

“It was such a pleasure to come and discuss with all of you the experiences and ideas of our Advisory Group members,” said Beale. “What you’re doing is passing down a ladder to the next generation. You’re helping them unlock their potential.”  

“The insights you contribute now, will mean future learners will have an even better student experience. It means businesses in the UK and globally will have access to more of the skilled talent they need to invest and grow.” 

“It means our training providers of tomorrow can be just as innovative and exceptional as they quite clearly are today,” the chief executive explained.  

Beale said collaborations like the advisory groups were about AAT meeting the challenges of tomorrow head on. She saw them as a practical example of AAT’s triple commitment to listening to its communities, putting its students first, and ensuring future relevance – for the profession and for AAT itself. 

“Now more than ever, constant innovation is needed to keep pace. But any innovation needs dialogue and diversity of input to be successful,” she said.   

The advisory groups in a discussion session at the AAT office
The advisory groups pose outside the AAT office