Enriching a Student's Journey - Chartered Accountants Ireland and DCU Access to the Workplace

Francesca Fitzpatrick is Programme Officer for Chartered Accountants Ireland’s Thrive Wellbeing Hub. In this piece, she explains what motivates the largest and longest established accountancy body in Ireland to support DCU Access to the Workplace.
What inspired Chartered Accountants Ireland to take part in DCU Access to the Workplace?

At Chartered Accountants Ireland, we were delighted to further our already established partnership with the DCU Access Programme by engaging in the Access to the Workplace Programme. We were inspired by the powerful stories of the work being done to support students from various backgrounds, and having the opportunity to enrich a student’s academic and professional journey in such a meaningful way was an initiative we knew we wanted to join.

DCU Access to the Workplace aims to level the playing field for students who experience disadvantage in the workplace. How does this support Chartered Accountants Ireland’s own values as a company?

At Chartered Accountants Ireland, our values define us. Our vision for the future is underpinned by five core ideals that support our central ethos of  “for tomorrow, for good”. These are Collaboration for Impact, Innovation with Ambition, Trust, Speed & Simplicity, and Inclusion. Our participation with DCU Access to the Workplace perfectly aligns with these values as well as our CSR goals, and our dedication to embracing diversity and inclusion in the profession and the wider community.

What was your first Access to the Workplace experience like – and how has Chartered Accountants Ireland benefited from having a student over the summer?

We had an excellent first experience of the Access to the Workplace placement this year. Genese was an exceptional candidate and joined our workplace with great energy and enthusiasm. We benefited greatly from her unique viewpoint, ideas, experience and feedback on various projects with a range of different departments. Having the regular touchpoints and back-up of the team at DCU also contributed to a positive experience throughout.

There are so many benefits to speak of and we have heard positive feedback from everyone involved. Most notably, we benefited from Genese’s insights on many projects concerning our own younger members and students. Genese was able to make suggestions and give feedback that we otherwise may not have been able to access. Genese brought a fresh energy to the teams she worked with, and the shared experience of contributing to making this a worthwhile and meaningful placement could be felt among all colleagues involved.

Why would you recommend that other companies participate in the programme?

Participating in the programme has been such a worthwhile experience for us as an organisation. We had the privilege of having Genese – an enthusiastic, engaged, positive and energetic student – contribute positively to our work here at Chartered Accountants Ireland, all while under the guidance of the team at DCU who do such a great job at supporting the employer and the student throughout the process. It is also a brilliant opportunity to be able to offer an experience to an individual who otherwise may not be able to access the type of work placement they really want. The scale of the impact of these placements is potentially life-changing, and we strongly recommend other companies to consider being a part of this award-winning initiative.

Genese grew up in Dublin with her five siblings, and chose to study Social Sciences at DCU after completing a Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) course in the field. Here, she describes her experience as an Access to the Workplace intern with Chartered Accountants Ireland.

“I signed up for Access to the Workplace because my own plans for an internship in social care had fallen through the previous year, and I was reconsidering what I wanted to do after university.

I’m so glad I participated in the programme. I never would have thought to apply to a company like Chartered Accountants Ireland, and I really loved it. Everyone was so nice and I got a lot of varied experience. I was in a different department every week, so I got to see what the whole company was like and try everything out. I even got to do a mock interview as part of my internship, and although I was really nervous, I got great feedback afterwards and they told me I definitely would have been offered the job, so that was a very validating experience.

If I hadn’t taken part in the Access to the Workplace Programme, I would have been working in retail full-time for the summer. I still worked in the supermarket at the weekend while I was doing my internship, so I was really busy, but the experience was invaluable. I think I contributed a lot, too, because I offered a fresh perspective. I was able to give an outside view on things like the software system they were using, and I came up with ideas for events and webinars.

Before the internship, I was really looking forward to learning what that kind of workplace was like. It was a real eye-opener, and I think it will give me an advantage after I graduate. Because I did a PLC, I always felt like I had an edge when I started in DCU, since I had already been in a college environment and knew how to do things like academic referencing. That’s what the internship felt like – an introduction to the workplace and the first step in my career. I think all students should do an internship, and I’m really lucky I did mine in Chartered Accountants.”

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