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Joanne’s Journey Started With An Apprenticeship
December 05, 2016

For Joanne Cotton an apprenticeship was the ticket to running a successful business, and getting the opportunity to follow her heart.

That’s why the Middlesbrough-based businesswoman, who runs Ambrose & Co Accounting Accounting Solutions, now employs apprentices.

Having excelled at school and leaving with As and A*s under her belt at GCSE, Joanne knew A Levels and university weren’t the route for her.

In 1996 she embarked on an Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) apprenticeship through NECC Training, now part of Northern Skills Group.

The training took her into the accounts department DIY chain Dickens, on Portrack Lane, Stockton.

She explained: “The three-year apprenticeship was a fantastic grounding in the world of accountancy, and I really got to grips with the fundamentals of the profession.

“After completing the training I wanted to go into practice – mainly to get the audit experience I knew I needed.

“The apprenticeship was really instrumental in helping me progress on to my next job at a private practice in Stokesley, where I continued to learn.”

In her spare time, Joanne studied to qualify with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, and went on to spend a further eight years in private practice.

Now she runs Ambrose & Co Accounting Solutions, employing four people, and has turned to Northern Skills Group once again to recruit her own apprentices.

Joanne employs two apprentices – Joshua Rae and Ryan Stephenson – both supported by Northern Skills Group’s expert team.

She added: “Starting my own business was possible because of the skills I’d picked up through the apprenticeship and resulting years’ of experience.

“By the age of 22 I was a manager within an accountancy practice, at that point most of my school friends who had gone on to university were just beginning to look for work.”

And for Joanne – whose passion is voluntary work with charity The Orangutan Foundation – running her own business has afforded her the flexibility to follow her dreams.

She explained: “I’ve spent a lot of time in Borneo and Indonesia, leading volunteer groups on conservation projects in the rainforest.

“It’s something I’ve been able to do because I run my own business. It’s hard work but it gives you the flexibility to follow your passion, and I think that’s a great thing.”

Now Joanne is encouraging other women to consider apprenticeships as the basis for rewarding careers.

Northern Skills Group lead Peter Wilson said: “Joanne’s story is an inspiration to all young people, and just goes to show how an apprenticeship can be a fantastic springboard for an exciting career.

“At Northern Skills Group we’re committed to helping employers like her get the skills and training they need to grow their businesses, and individuals the tools to build rewarding careers.

“Our team of experts has the interests of the regional economy in its sights and we share the ambitions of businesses going for growth.

“That’s why we build skills training solutions and apprenticeships around companies’ specific needs.”

Northern Skills Group is the combined expertise of Middlesbrough College and NECC training, and operates bases across the north.

It has already working with some of the region’s most high profile businesses, such as Hitachi Rail Europe, SAGE (UK) and ElringKlinger (UK).

Supporting multinationals, owner-managed businesses and individuals alike, the Group has positioned itself to supply consultancy and advisory services as well as practical training provision.

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