Grad profile: ‘The most important part of learning is applying your knowledge’

Science Education graduate Zoe Fitzgerald is an Accounting Technicians Ireland apprentice

Accounting Technicians Ireland apprentice Zoe Fitzgerald. Phhotograph: John Kelly

Accounting Technicians Ireland apprentice Zoe Fitzgerald. Phhotograph: John Kelly


Zoe Fitzgerald (24), Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary, Science Education graduate and first year Accounting Technicians Ireland Apprentice

Tell us about yourself, where you’re from and what you studied in college

I sat my Leaving Certificate in 2015 and went on to study for a degree in Science Education at UCC. During my second year I knew it was not really for me, but finished the course and took a year out to decide what I wanted to do.

How did you find out about the grad programme?

As part of work experience at a Deis school, I saw that apprenticeships were strongly promoted. When my younger brother Adam was studying for his Leaving Certificate, I asked him if he had heard of apprenticeships.

He is now in his second year of an aircraft mechanics apprenticeship, and absolutely loves it. When my brother began his programme, I started to further research apprenticeships for myself.

I really enjoyed accounting and business subjects at school, so when I saw the Accounting Technicians Ireland Apprenticeship, it appealed very much and seemed like a great fit.

What is the graduate programme like?

I am thrilled to know now that I made the right decision. I spend four days a week working with Cork City Council and one day a week studying online through Cork College of Commerce.

The combination of work and study of the two-year Accounting Technicians Ireland Apprenticeship provides a great balance. For me, the most important part of learning is applying your knowledge.

The learnings and skills I gain from study modules are very applicable to the work I face. The on-the-job experience cannot be had from a typical college route, and you earn as you learn.

Explain what the work experience was like

Every work day is different, which keeps things interesting. I am gaining an insight into so many different areas of accounting, and prepare a cash flow forecast each week.

I very much enjoy my work and workplace environment. Everyone has been welcoming and helpful. A mentor and manager are always there to answer questions. There is great guidance and support.

What do you plan to work as after the programme and why?

At the end of my two-year apprenticeship I will be a fully qualified accounting technician, a role I can pursue as a career, or I can continue my studies to obtain a full accountancy qualification.

What’s your advice to graduates applying to the programme?

If you think accounting is for you, seriously consider the Accounting Technicians Ireland Apprenticeship. You go straight to paid employment whilst earning a qualification and developing skills you would not gain in college.

The apprenticeship option needs to be promoted more widely amongst graduates and Leaving Certificate students. More girls and women, particularly, should consider it as a way to progress their studies and careers.

- Shauna Bowers