Name: Helen Rushforth
University: University of Durham
Degree: BA (hons) History and Politics (2002)
Job Title: Auditor
Organisation: Audit Commission
What do you do in your job?
I work to ensure that public money is spent efficiently and effectively across all areas of the public services. I’m responsible for auditing a range of public sector clients, from hospitals to fire services. The tasks that I undertake have changed as I’ve progressed through the trainee scheme. I mainly undertake auditing work under the guide of different team leaders, but I also have led two audits, which requires planning, organising and reviewing the work of my teams. When I qualify, I will become a principal auditor, and may rise to managerial level.
What was your motivation in applying?
I wanted to feel that I was working for something other than shareholder profit – for the greater good if you like. My father had worked in this sector, and through him I realised that auditing, particularly in the public sector, is by no means boring work – in fact it’s vitally important. The issues that my job touches on, such as auditing NHS budgets, can often have a high profile, because they involve the spending of public money and the provision of public services.
What did the application process involve?
I went through the initial online application process and was invited to an assessment centre, which involved group work and role play. I think I did quite well in the fake client interview. I was also able to draw on my experience as the treasurer of the wine society at university.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I love the variety. Even if you are doing a dull task, you know that you will be finishing it and getting onto something more interesting. The work-life balance is great. It’s about 35 hours a week, although the travel can add on some time. I also get huge satisfaction working for the public sector.
Most challenging part of your job?
Studying for the accountancy qualification is quite hard work, although you are well supported by the Audit Commission. Weekend study can be depressing, although you can balance it by doing a bit of study during the week time. In terms of the actual job, the most difficult part is telling a client that something might be wrong with their reporting, and that it could potentially have a big impact on their workload or budgets. It’s important to make sure that you work out a constructive way of dealing with the problem.
Advice to readers considering a career in your field:
Although you need to be comfortable with numbers, this isn’t about having a talent for pure maths. Don’t underestimate the number of people skills that are needed, as this job is centred on meeting and talking to people. If you enjoy that, then you’ll enjoy the work.
The Audit Commission is an independent public body that looks after about Â£180 billion of public funds, and ensures that public finances are spent effectively. Its tasks could range from reviewing police finances, and encouraging recycling, to investigating the provision of social housing and urban regeneration.
With around 2,500 people across 10 offices, its trainees can work in a range of offices across the UK. Over the first four years, trainees study towards their CIPFA qualification, and the Audit Commission provides both college fees and time off to attend and study for exams.
For more info see: www.theartofnumbers.co.uk