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Trainee accountant Eden Close certainly hasn’t followed the traditional path to a career in accounting and finance. 

The 24-year-old from Bega on the NSW far South Coast veered off the well-travelled path from school to university before settling in at Shellharbour firm, Accounting Professionals.

Not one for doing things by-the-book Eden left school in Year 9, at age 15, to complete a four-year butchery apprenticeship, then worked his way up from the factory floor to team leader in the local cheese factory, even trying his hand as a bee farmer.

“Now that I look back on my early experiences, I think the reason I started my butchering apprenticeship is that I enjoyed the process of turning something into a value-added product,” Eden explains.

“That is what I was really interested in. I saw the same thing at Bega Cheese, turning things into products. Value-adding and making money that way.

“I also learned a lot about manufacturing and how big business operates in an ASX listed company.”

New career path

It was during his time at Bega Cheese that Eden really started to map out his future career path.

“With a bit more maturity I decided I was really interested in business and wanted to further my education, so I did a Certificate IV in Business and Management, which was good at the time for the role I was in.”

This study only fuelled his passion for more knowledge, starting a Bachelor of Business while continuing to work at the cheese factory part-time.

“The core subjects of the business degree were really informative and helped me work out what I really enjoyed, which is accounting and economics,” Eden says.

“So, I decided to change over to commerce majoring in accounting and looking to get more experience in that field now.”

The bee’s knees

It was his early interest in value-adding that also led to a foray into bee farming.

“[Laughs] I had my own hives and I think I had 100kg or so of honey. I was excited that I was buying jars online and looking at labels I could put on it,” he recalls.

“I was fascinated with that whole process and I just wanted to get better at it. That’s why I decided to take on the degree.

“People would ask me, “Why don’t you start your own business?” but I wanted to learn more about business first and take it on in a professional manner.

“A big part of that is accounting. You’ve got to understand the finance of business before you can do anything right.”

Thinking outside the square

However, if it wasn’t for some ‘outside-the-box’ thinking from his employer, Eden may not have had the opportunity to earn his financial stripes at all.

“Normally, we recruit someone who has a high ATAR and has also finished their first year of university,” explains AP Operations Manager, Debbie Cairncross.

“We find they have had a bit of experience in balancing university because the transition from school to university can be challenging.

“It was a very left-field decision for us to even look at a candidate that had left school in Year 9 and didn’t even have an ATAR.

“But he’d gone to university, essentially as a mature aged student, and showed a level of maturity and determination that demonstrated to us he was going to succeed.”

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Working at AP

Just like his early career choices, the decision to apply for the traineeship wasn’t taken lightly.

“For my personal and professional growth, I saw it as a good opportunity to move out of the area and get some experience in a big firm.

“I started as a trainee accountant but have been working in the admin team for the last six months.

“I have learned a lot about how things work, talking with clients and building relationships before I move into the tax and accounting team,” Eden said.

“They’ve been really accommodating. I came from a background where I haven’t worked in an office so to some extent, they took a bit of a stab with me and gave me a shot.

“I like that they have been willing to help me learn and teach me along the way and I’m sure that will continue in the future.”

AP’s recruitment plan for Eden was to spend 12 months in the administration team but opportunity knocked earlier than expected.

“He actually picked things up really quickly,” says Cairncross. “He had a really enquiring mind and a level of tenacity about him that meant he was going to get where he wanted to be faster.

“We couldn’t keep him challenged in terms of work that he was looking to do and then an opportunity opened up in the tax and accounting team earlier than expected.”

Lending a hand after bushfire crisis

That support will also extend to a trip by the whole firm to Bega later this year to support Eden’s hometown as they struggle to get back on their feet after devastating bushfires tore through the region recently.

“Working at the butcher shop, we did a lot of business with farms in and around Cobargo and there’s a lot of farms there that have been impacted in a big way, some are no longer there which is really sad.”

It will be a bittersweet homecoming for Eden, who has not been back since being evacuated during the bushfire emergency while visiting family and friends over Christmas.

“They are going to need a lot of help to rebuild. The worst is yet to come for small businesses now.

“The physical impact is devastating but also there may be businesses that may not have the cash flow to continue. That’s an important part of working with businesses down there as well.”

While AP’s unorthodox recruitment process may be considered a break from tradition for some in the industry, it’s a gamble that appears to be paying off for Eden.