[Q&A] Academy of Business Leaders' Director of Operations: Katrina Grech

Katrina Grech tackles the ins and outs of the newly launched ACCA Accelerated Work Study Programme...

Director of Operations of the Academy of Business Leaders, Katrina Grech
Director of Operations of the Academy of Business Leaders, Katrina Grech

The Academy of Business Leaders recently launched an accelerated ACCA apprenticeship programme, in which students get to work and study while reading for their ACCA qualification.

This type of programme delivery is the only one of its kind locally, promising a faster and more applied route towards achieving the ACCA qualification and kick-starting one’s career. The programme’s duration is two years and is made up of a combination of theory and practice, providing students with a well-rounded experience, which enables them to develop purposefully and refine their own comprehensive toolbox of accounting and finance techniques.

In this interview, the Academy’s Director of Operations Katrina Grech told us a little bit more about what makes this programme unique and a golden opportunity for both businesses and students.

Academy of Business Leaders was always associated with management courses, what brought you into the accounting field?

We acknowledged the incredible growth in financial services in Malta, but we saw a growing gap in talent shortage and as a business operating close to industry, this concerned us. We needed to think ahead and support this need before it became a problem. Not only that, but we needed to look at the bigger picture and take into consideration the rippling and crippling effect that a shortage in talent could also have on other fields.

What solution are you offering to tackle this gap in talent? 

We are offering our students the chance to actually apply their knowledge rather than simply go about it theoretically. The talent shortage is becoming real and so adding that experiential element to our students’ education is essential. By offering them flexibility and work exposure and ensuring that our lecturers are all leaders within their fields, we give students the vital and much in-demand financial and strategic skills modern-day employers seek. Not only that, but we support the students throughout their entire educational journey to make sure that we develop talent which is nothing short of exceptional and fully fledged.

Why did you opt for this route?

At first, the traditional ACCA route did not fit well with the way we do education as an academy. We value long term and personal relationships with students, we see the importance of committing to the goal and we look to support the students throughout their journey of success. We also understand the experiential and beneficial importance of giving our students a taste of the real working environment and the chance to apply their knowledge prior to fully entering the job market.

This description doesn’t fit well with the way ACCA has been followed locally up to now, as student attendance is modular. For this reason, we really challenged the system to look for ways to deliver the programme in a method that gives that same value that we so pride ourselves with when delivering our other courses.

We wanted to challenge students to commit to the end and empower them to achieve the end in sight.  We wanted to dually (through simultaneously working and studying) own their journey to success. But most of all, we wanted to really get to know our students to individually cater for their growth. As newbies in the ACCA market, we had the luxury of entering on a tabula rasa - and so taking nothing for granted, we sat and observed the industry and then came up with our preferred methods to develop the fully-fledged accountants the industry is hungry for.

Two years seems like a very tight deadline to finish the course.  What support can students expect?

We pride that we are here for the industry and with this in mind, our commitment is to shape students into the leaders the industry needs. Their drive will surely grow as they learn - not just through theory, but also through application. There is also value in the element of the structure we have set up for our students and the commitment we are demanding of them. We have catered for all the success factors - daytime study, online support, and work application. This opportunity is golden and therefore requires commitment.

Who would be ideal for this programme?

We acknowledge that this programme isn’t for everyone. There might be students who want to do their ACCA at a slower rate or perhaps want the experience of a different type of education, and that’s fine. After all, that’s the beauty of offering students a choice. The students who will succeed at this programme need to be hungry for success and growth and dedicated to the result. Students will be well compensated for this; they will get a salary and an opportunity to fast track their career - a chance to step it up and get ahead of the game. Generation Z are hungry for this, and so we want to widen the ACCA market to give them this chance, feed their hunger. This course is also open to mature students who may wish to change career paths but can’t risk the time or loss of income that other more conventional routes may require of them. We are looking for students who deserve fully paid scholarships; students who are talented, ambitious and focused.

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