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NI student takes first place in her Irish accountancy exams... from Down Under

Apprenticeship opened a world of opportunity for me, says Emma Harpur (23)


Bright spark: Emma Harpur is originally from Castlederg but now lives in Melbourne. Credit: MediaConsult

Bright spark: Emma Harpur is originally from Castlederg but now lives in Melbourne. Credit: MediaConsult

Bright spark: Emma Harpur is originally from Castlederg but now lives in Melbourne. Credit: MediaConsult

A student from Northern Ireland has come first on the island of Ireland in accountancy exams – despite taking them on the other side of the world.

Australia-based Emma Harpur, who pursued an apprenticeship after A-levels, is also topping the charts Down Under after twice placing first in exams as part of her quest to pursue her dream career.

The 23-year-old, originally from Castlederg but now living in Melbourne, opted for the Accounting Technicians Ireland (ATI) higher-level apprenticeship after a hat-trick of A-grade A-levels at Castlederg High School, despite being accepted to Queen’s University Belfast to study for a degree in actuarial sciences and risk management.

After a year of her apprenticeship with Claremount Chartered Accountants in Omagh, organised through South West College, Emma headed for Australia.

Distance has proved no barrier to success.

“In November 2018, I took a break to travel to Australia for six months. My plan was to return home and continue studying, but before I knew it, I had been in Australia for a year,” she said.

“I began researching how I could complete my ATI diploma. I signed up to study online, watched pre-recorded lectures and sat exams last year through a digital platform.

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“I absolutely loved the course and enjoyed studying. This shone through when I received my results. Being told I had placed first inspired me to further study accounting and take my knowledge to the next level.”

Emma is now working to become a qualified accountant through the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, using exemptions gained from her ATI diploma. She is also making her way through a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance through Oxford Brookes University while working with the prestigious Pitcher Partners in Melbourne.

“My ATI qualification opened a world of opportunity,” Emma explained.

“I got on board with the higher-level apprenticeship because it allowed me work and learn at the same time, building valuable experience and laying a firm foundation for my future.

“The work experience gained while studying is invaluable and puts you a step ahead of university students.

“It also allowed me to ensure accounting was the correct pathway for me at an early stage.

“It was challenging, but really interesting and enjoyable.

“The support ATI provides is second to none. You can study with them from anywhere in the world, and the ATI qualification provides exemptions for further study with other accounting bodies at a later stage.”

The ATI higher-level apprenticeship in accountancy, which allows students to work, earn and learn at the same time, is to create 120 jobs in Northern Ireland in September.

Apprentices earn at least the national minimum wage or above while part of the two-year programme.

According to Gabriela Airini, head of education at ATI, apprenticeships enables employers to recruit and upskill staff in a cost-effective manner because training fees are covered by the Department for the Economy.

She said: “Since the programme’s foundation in 2014, the higher-level apprenticeship in accountancy has been the source of more than 600 jobs in Northern Ireland.

“We now partner with more than 100 employers across 14 sectors.”

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