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National Apprenticeship
Week 2024
– Enoch’s blog

Hear from Enoch Baffour, a former Level 4 Tax Technician apprentice in HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)…

“Hi, my name is Enoch Baffour, a VAT compliance officer within HMRC’s Taskforce and Specialist compliance team. I am happy to report I have recently completed my Level 4 professional accounting/ taxation technician apprenticeship.

In addition to my primary job role, I look to ‘interject’ myself into several varied but equally rewarding groups/networks. These include acting as one of Croydon’s regional incident marshals, co-leading HMRC London’s regional Apprenticeship Network, acting as a safe-haven advocate, sitting on Croydon’s social mobility network as well as the Civil Sservice’s cross departmental London and Southe East England’s Social mobility network and Environment groups. 

Why join so many activities you may ask? Well, aside from looking to build my competencies to progress into a more senior role I take a lot of pleasure in helping others develop themselves both with career progression but also with their mental wellbeing. Furthermore, I have a keen passion for protecting our planet for the next generation to enjoy. My actions before moving into HMRC will hopefully shed some light on the penultimate point. 

Prior to joining HMRC in November 2018 I worked in the charity sector for ten years with one of the largest ‘Victim focused’ services in the world, Victim Support. As project coordinator for the charity’s youth offer in areas across North, Northwest and Northeast London I looked to work with local government, statutory services, other charities, and local communities to support people affected by crime, youth violence and anti-social behaviour. 

I was able to support hundreds of people cope with the varying degrees of emotional and psychological trauma faced after being affected by crime and/or anti-social behaviour. Having helped people come through some of their darkest moments I am forever motivated to ensure all those I meet are able to reach their full potential. 

Aside from major working roles I have worked part time in Argos retail group for around 8 years and presently work part time as a front of house receptionist for Dulwich Leisure centre. In terms of hobbies, I would say I am a big sports fan. Typically, I’ll watch whatever is on telly, but I mostly enjoy watching tennis, WWE, athletics, rugby and football. Moreover, I am a loud and proud Liverpool fan (despite having zero connection with the city). Aside from playing football every week with friends I have a little time in my diary for video gaming. 😉

Looking more closely at apprenticeships my initial view of this learning pathway was rather old-fashioned in nature. I had grown up assuming apprenticeships were tailored only toward those seeking a career in the construction industry. As such I didn’t see the value in undertaking one as my interests didn’t align to this sector. Even when I was exploring a career change from the charity sector into my current role in HMRC the role was not advertised as an apprenticeship. 

For some of you the question of ‘would you have joined HMRC on an apprenticeship if originally advertised’ may come to mind. In honesty I don’t know how I would have approached the application, if at all. At the stage of my life in which i made the application I didn’t fancy the idea of formal learning. Nonetheless upon successfully applying and getting the job of tax officer I was notified that all new tax officers on a Higher executive officer band and above would need to undertake an apprenticeship as part of their traineeship within the department. As a result, an apprenticeship sought me out rather than the other way round. Overall, I’d say my experience of apprenticeships has been a positive one but stick around for what I found positive and not so positive. 

Firstly, I think it’s important to lay out how my apprenticeship should have run so you have an idea of the realities of the programme and whether it met my expectations. All apprentices, upon the start, are given a ‘routeway of learning’. This learning spreadsheet provides the learner with a comprehensive map of all learning modules you would have to complete against the three core milestones. As the apprenticeship was noted to have a duration of 18 months each milestone is six months long or 25 weeks of learning (roughly). 

The first milestone is noted as foundation learning. This is where you begin your learning into the department, the work it carries out, mandatory learning such as data protection and safeguarding in addition to basic overviews of different tax areas such as VAT and Corporation Tax. I had to carry out a series of computer and classroom-based learning during this period, but the emphasis was on the screen learning. I found the monitor staring tough as my learning style prefers more face to face and interactive learning techniques. As a result, I sought out other apprentices who I could study in groups with. This is how I came to find, join, and eventually run the regional Apprenticeship Network based in Croydon. 

As an aside, newaside new starters to HMRC spent their first few weeks away from their eventualeventually team. Instead, they are placed in ‘basecamp’ where the idea is colleagues look to learn the basics about tax, their organisation, and the operational procedures before looking to add any additional information to their learning. I really appreciated this approach as it helped ease me into the department without the immediate stress to hit the ground running. Instead, I was able to network and learn the fundamentals before going to my assigned team. Furthermore, I knew everyone around me at basecamp was equally new and anxious, so we were able to bond over these similarities. 

Circling back the second milestone was noted as the practitioner level. At this stage the apprentices should be able to demonstrate their ability to open a compliance case and work it through to completion. On one hand I had gained a wealth of experience by shadowing colleagues on their case visits and sitting in on case conferences which aimed at identifying tax risks and putting in place structured interventions to resolve said issue/s. However, I had numerous issues by this point with my learning so was not confident in the requirements of this initial milestone. 

Looking back, I would say the main reasons included the respective changes of line manager, issues from the learning provider confirming a fixed modules of learning on my routeway as well a failure to make the learning mentor aware I had started my role. This meant they had not contacted me for six months to support me with my learning. These obstacles were difficult to manage as by this point several new starters to the department were also on the apprenticeship and responding negatively to their own journey. 

I think it’sits important to note here that there were mitigating factors including that severalincluding several colleagues based in the learning provider overseeing my apprenticeship had left their posts in this period and new startersstarter had limited time to settle as applicants were already on the scheme. Using my role as network lead for the region I looked to set up study groups and voice colleague opinions at national forums and direct to the learning provider. Through such actions I was able to support many colleagues to have an improved experience. However, another major issue came up that put a ‘temporary’ pause to all apprenticeships nationwide, the Coronavirus. 

Due to the national lockdown all apprenticeships were postponed under the umbrella of ‘break in learning’. This would eventually be lifted after a year by which point many colleagues had decided to drop out of completing their apprenticeships. I however wanted to complete my apprenticeship given how much work I had already put into it. Moreover, I felt it would look odd if the lead for an apprenticeship decided to pull out, so I also had an eye on ‘keeping up appearances’ (little reference for the popular TV show). 

Given the various issues I faced, thefaced the third pillar was something I felt I was able to gain a wealth of experiences in. This was titledtitled as ‘leadership’. In this section apprentices look to attend face to face learning which looks at public speaking as well as building up confidence in leading on case conferences and supporting widersupporting with wider business aims. In honesty the third pillar seemed to be embedded into the first two pillars as there were modules aimed specifically at leadership in every phrase. Lastly the leadership element also looked to support colleagues toward their end point assessments.

I will say that whatever issues I had in the beginning and middle of my apprenticeship werewas erased at the final phrase as the learning provider had by this point restructured itself and had a much smaller cohort of colleagues it had to support. As a result, I was given my own coach to help me pull together all my evidence for when the external assessors would test my knowledge of tax. In addition, I was provided with various online presentations and learning to help us study toward our exam. Due to the much-improved support strands around me and the remainingand remaining cohort the vast majority, including myself, comfortably passed our apprenticeships. There was a big celebratory ceremony to mark the occasion a few months on and all in attendance were incredibly grateful to be recognised for the hard work required to get through what was overall a tough but rewarding experience. 

Looking back over the experience I’d say a key takeaway is the need to network and not to wait for help but to actively pursue it. Coming into anything new can be daunting. At times you may even feel an expectation that all things promised will be provided without having to exert anynay personal effort. If I had adopted such an approach and waited for help or a learning mentor, I don’t believe I would have achieved as much as I did in the time nor passed the programme. I would say I am quite a shy and reserved individual, but the apprenticeship experience forced me to adapt and become a more rounded individual. 

Don’t be afraid to seek help and support and please don’t look at the apprenticeship as a tick box exercise otherwise it will feel and become that. I really do believe whatever effort you put into the experience you will get a whole lot more back. I would thoroughly recommend an apprenticeship to anyone looking to try something new or looking at career progression as Civil Service apprenticeships are nationally recognised qualifications that can help stand you out in more ways than one.”

Headshot of Enoch Baffour, a former Level 4 Tax Technician apprentice in HM Revenue & Customs.
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