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Almost two years ago, our Accounts Assistant Julie Milne was accepted onto the RGU Graduate Apprenticeship scheme allowing her to undertake an Honours degree in Accounting while applying the skills gained in the workplace.

We caught up with Julie to find out how her studies are impacting her development in her current role and why she believes studying in this way is so beneficial.

Tell me a bit about yourself

My name is Julie Milne and I first started working at Online in 2013 as a Central Services Coordinator which was quite different from my previous role in the motor industry which was more customer facing. This was an interesting position that allowed me to see different aspects of the business such as procurement and logistics, project documentation and travel and visas. I was in that role for about 18 months before returning to the motor industry, but I rejoined Online in 2017. It was really nice to come back and great to see a lot of my former colleagues still with the company

Outside of work I enjoy spending time with friends. However, a lot of my spare time is currently spent studying and planning my wedding – although due to COVID 19 pushing it back we should perhaps call it re-planning!

What is your current role at Online?

I work in the Finance Department, and I am the Accounts Assistant for Alison who is the Lead Accountant and John, the Finance Director. I assist with most aspects of the finance department and the financial reporting. My main responsibilities are processing supplier and customer invoices, credit control and cash forecasting. With Online being a smaller company I am fortunate enough to get an oversight and experience in all areas of the finance department including working with the other departments, the regional offices and the other Group companies. For example, I work quite closely with the Projects team. A lot of the projects have staged payment terms and you cannot invoice until you reach certain stages so communication with them is key. We also have weekly meetings with the various departments to discuss ongoing orders and their progress which gives us an overview of what to expect in the coming days and weeks.

You are currently working towards your Honours degree in accounting. Can you tell me how that came about and a bit more about the RGU Graduate Apprenticeship scheme?

Of course. When I joined the Finance team at Online it was always with a view to development, and I was studying towards the ACCA exams with John when he approached me about the opportunity with RGU. I was so surprised and very grateful that he thought of me. It’s an amazing opportunity to gain a qualification but also the work experience at the same time. The RGU Graduate Apprenticeship scheme is a five-year course – four years for the honours degree in accountancy and the fifth year to gain the ACCA qualification and it is funded by Skills Development Scotland. I am still employed full time by Online and it combines online learning by RGU with work-based learning supported by John and Alison. I have full support from Online and RGU for the academic side of it but also access to resources such as the library, the study space, like any other student really.

How is the work you are undertaking at RGU assisting you in your current role and how do you think it will help with your development going forward?

It allows me to put into practice the theory I am learning at RGU. Using fixed assets as an example, we go through the theory and how it is dealt with then I spend one on one time with Alison or John and they explain fixed assets in relation to Online. I really am getting the best of both.

It has been a huge benefit to see the company and my role in a different way. It gives me an insight into why we do things the way we do but also into other departments and how all the roles in the business are key to the success of the company. I previously thought Finance would be quite isolated, a standalone department but it has so much involvement in other areas.

Everybody at Online has been so supportive and given up time and showed an interest in the course and it has allowed me to speak more with people day-to-day that I might not otherwise have had much experience with.

I imagine doing this degree full time without the work experience would be difficult without the real-life examples that relate to the theory. It is not easy; it is hard work, but I am thankful to Online for the opportunity. I think this way of learning will become more common in the future; it makes so much sense to do things this way if you have an employer who will support you through it.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time, what are your career goals going forward?

That is a good question! To be honest right now my main focus is completing my degree. I am really enjoying the role that I am currently in and I’m looking forward to being part of the future success of Online Electronics. Overall, whatever job I am doing, I just want to do it to the best of my ability.

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