Smart moves: Audit balances its graduate recruitment

The Audit Commission is one of Britain's two main public audit bodies. It is also aiming to become one of the accountancy profession's most forward thinking employers in its equal opportunities policies and practices.

About 30 graduates a year are recruited by the Commission, most for accountancy jobs at its District Audit arm, which is responsible for auditing local authorities and the National Health Service trusts.

Graduates are trained in their posts to become accountants, supported in their studies to-wards qualifications under the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy training schemes.

Other graduate recruits go to work at the Commission headquarters at Vincent Square in Westminster, where they analyse information and statistics for the Commission's reports, which publicise best (and worst) practice in the public sector.

District Audit is keen to consider graduates irrespective of their degree subjects while the Commission headquarters looks for those with more "relevant" backgrounds. "We have found no advantage in getting District Audit accountancy trainees with relevant degree subjects - in fact we like to get a good range of backgrounds," says Tessa Lemon, equal opportunities officer at the Commission.

But the Commission is convinced it must diversify its workforce. Specifically, it wants to recruit more ethnic minority graduates. "We are very conscious of our position as a public body which talks about best practice to clients, and of the work that the NHS and local government does in this area," says Ms Lemon. "We want to be among the leaders.

"In the last few years, District Audit has had to focus on market testing - to go out and win work. We have to present a face that reflects the composition of the client itself and their local population. If you are going to make a presentation to a London or a Midlands client, which has a mixed workforce, they are going to want to see people who reflect the make-up of their own workforce and population. And we are very conscious that we are not winning all the staff we would want to."

Ms Lemon concedes that while the Audit Commission has adopted strong equal opportunities policies, at a senior level there are still relatively few ethnic minority staff. "It is much easier to do this at the graduate level," she explains. "Hopefully they are going to be the people who will stay with us and move up the organisation."

The Commission's recruitment strategy has consequently in-cluded targeting institutions, such as the University of East London, with a high proportion of ethnic minority undergraduates.

It is also supporting the Windsor Fellowship, which asks employers to sponsor ethnic minority undergraduates by giving them personal development programmes. Students visit organisations between terms. The aim is to assist high flyers to land good jobs after graduation.

The Commission is sponsoring two students through the fellowship this year and hopes to sponsor more in the future.

Discussions are taking place with the National Mentoring Consortium, a campaign to encourage the mentoring of young adults from ethnic minorities, in which the Commission wants to participate.

"Once we get people to join we must manage them properly and retain them," says Ms Lemon. "Where their numbers are small, ethnic minority recruits might feel isolated. We have been running focus groups to get ethnic minority staff to talk about what we might do better."

This is leading to the creation of a self-managed group for ethnic minority staff to help them discuss problems and to lobby.The focus group indicates that the organisation is working well with its ethnic minority staff.

"We have equal opportunities representatives around the country," says Ms Lemon, "so that all staff are aware of racial discrimination and racial harassment, and we aim to do training on this for everybody."

While new ethnic minority recruits seem happy with the way the Commission implements its equal opportunities policies, more experienced staff have had some concerns. "We are listening to them," says Ms Lemon. "We realise the importance of the message coming from the top and are asking senior managers to set the standard. Andrew Foster, our chief executive, has just signed up to the Leadership Challenge, a Commission for Racial Equality initiative. We must make sure that our internal management does things in the right way. It is about getting both things right - recruitment and retention."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Sport
Danny Cipriani of England breaks clear to score his second try
rugby
Life and Style
New research says leaving your desk can help you to avoid serious illness
health
Arts and Entertainment
tvSPOILER ALERT: Like a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings, this GoT episode was a belter
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Guru Careers: Communications Exec / PR Exec

£25 - £30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a highly-motivated and ambitious Comm...

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral