Ed's Accountancy Apprenticeship
Ed O’Grady and his family are members of Dorset DCS. NDCS recently published this article about Ed and his experience going into the working world and starting his career in Accountancy.
As Ed (20) discusses his plans for the next five years, it’s clear he knows exactly what he wants from his career. But it hasn’t always been so straightforward. Although Ed, who’s severely to profoundly deaf and wears hearing aids, knew he wanted to become an accountant, his school pushed him to apply for university. “During our A-levels, we had PSHE sessions every fortnight and they were all about going to university,” Ed recalls. “I don’t remember anything specific about apprenticeships.”
Ed applied to university and got offers from all five of his choices, but by then, he’d learned about the option to do an apprenticeship in accountancy. “I realised that if I wanted to study accountancy at university, I’d have to do the course I’m doing now afterwards anyway. It was quicker to do the apprenticeship and get paid while I’m learning. It was a no-brainer!”
Ed used his experience of applying to university to help with his apprenticeship application, although he wasn’t sure whether to mention his deafness. “I felt universities would be obliged to help me out with my deafness, whereas apprenticeship employers might not be as understanding,” he explains. “It was definitely a worry. But my mum said they’d find out at some point, and it would be better to be upfront about it.”
In his application, Ed decided to frame his deafness in a positive light, by mentioning his experience of mentoring a deaf student at school in his CV. Although he didn’t ask for any adjustments for his interview, it was held in a quiet room with one other person. “My parents were ecstatic when I got the apprenticeship,” he says. “They supported me all the way.”
When he first started the apprenticeship, Ed struggled to use the phone. “Being on the telephone is quite a big part of my job,” he says. “I have to use the phone with people I don’t know in other offices. Later down the line, I’ll have to talk to clients on the phone, too.”
Ed moved to a different audiology service and was fitted with new Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids. “They’re great,” he laughs. “If your parents arehaving a go at you, you just whip out your phone and play music through your hearing aids. Can’t hear a thing!”
As well as helping him listen to music, Ed’s new hearing aids allow him to use the phone. “The IT department connected my desk phone to my mobile, so I can do all my work calls through my mobile which then connects straight to my hearing aids,” he explains. “I used to be terrified of using the phone. All my life I’ve never really used it. But since I got these hearing aids, I feel like I can use the phone to talk to people. I prefer to lip-read though, so since we started working from home, my preference is Zoom.”
As well as making the phone work for him, Ed also had to adapt to working in an office environment and socialising with his colleagues. “Working while trying to hear people is really difficult because I can’t work and listen to someone talking at the same time,” says Ed. “I have to stop what I’m doing, turn around and look at them to lip-read.
“I don’t feel insecure about my deafness, but on a practical level, my deafness makes it difficult to do two things at once without getting tired. I’ve explained that to my manager, who’s very understanding. She’s got better at stopping what she’s doing, making eye contact and letting me see her lips before she speaks. “For example, there’s a partition board between my desk and my manager’s, so when she talks I can’t see her lips. I just ask her to move so that I can lip-read. “It goes both ways. I’m still getting used to working in an office environment, and my colleagues are still getting used to working with someone who needs a bit of additional assistance.”
There are still some scenarios where Ed struggles to communicate, such as in the pub after work. “Because of COVID-19, I’ve only been to the pub after work once. It was difficult. Talking in a busy pub is hard enough with my friends, let alone with people who I didn’t really know!” However, after getting to know his team and becoming more comfortable at work, Ed thinks he’ll find it easier in future. “I’m more confident in myself now,” he says. “If we went to the pub now, I’d feel confident saying, ‘I’ll be honest, I can’t hear you in here, is there any chance we could move outside?’ Or I’d just try to speak to one person at a time.
“My advice to another young person starting a job would be to be confident in yourself and your ability. If you’re struggling, talk to someone. The chances are they can help you. Most people in this world will help you up if you’re down. “Be honest about your hearing and ask for adaptions if you need them. It’ll make your life much easier, and make your employer’s life easier too!”
Looking back now, Ed’s glad he chose to do an apprenticeship instead of going to university. “I do think about what would have happened if I went to uni, and the social life I might have had. But I’d like to think I’ve got enough of that within our team. I’m part of the team now.”