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Keeping The Pipeline of Future Accountants Flowing

Last week I was at Engage24, AICPA/CIMA’s annual conference in Las Vegas. 

As well as waving the Accountests flag at our exhibition stand, I got to attend some keynotes and specialist sessions too, including squeezing into a packed arena to listen to Susan Coffey interview Lexy Kessler from Aprio, Okorie Ramsey (AICPA’s Chair) and Jennifer Wilson of Convergence Coaching on how to keep Accounting an attractive and worthwhile career choice. 

Here’s my take-away points presented in terms of what the core issues affected the supply of future accountants are, what ‘they’ (AICPA/CIMA) are doing to address them and perhaps most importantly, how you as an employer of accountants can play a part: 

Changing the perception of “The Accountant”

    What are they doing about it? 

    AICPA seem to be working to change outdated stereotypical perceptions of accounting as ‘the boring profession that I’m not smart enough to join’ that persists strongly enough to deter young people from even considering accounting as a career.   

    Their efforts focus on outreach into High Schools and Colleges to present accounting as a valued and self-fulfilling career available to varied people, not just math geeks. 


    What can you do about it?  

    Getting involved in your community’s education establishments to push the same message at school and college job fairs and events that help students decide on university subjects or career paths. 


    Changing the early stages of Accounting Degrees & Accounting Modules in Business Degrees

      What are they doing about it? 

      The panel seemed united in their view that the fastest way to extinguish a desire to build an accounting career was attending the introductory 101 accounting classes at university where turgid numerical processes were regurgitated in the dullest manner without any introduction as to why. 

      AIPCA seem to be working with universities to shift the introduction towards a meaningful and realistic summary of what accounting does for businesses and society to motivate students towards considering the purpose of the profession before diving into the detail of double-entry bookkeeping. 


      What can you do about it?  

      You’re unlikely to have much sway on how universities introduce accounting to students but consider how you introduce accounting to people you hire into your business. 

      How could you change your onboarding and induction content to motivate new hires by communicating what your business does for your community? 


      Reducing the number of practice hours required to become a CPA


        What are they doing about it? 

        Shifting the dial to put quality ahead of quantity by focusing on achieving competence in accounting and recognizing that competence may be achieved in differing timespans by different people. 

        As a co-founder of a business that lives and breathes a competency-focused approach to hiring and career development, this part of the keynote resonated the strongest with me, even though it presents AICPA and the universities that rely on time in study to generate their income with a colossal task of changing their business and study models. 


        What can you do about it?  

        Get behind AICPA and be vocal in supporting the shift away from time to competency as a measure success, keeping in mind that the panel were clear that shortening the time to becoming a CPA does not mean removing or diluting a final exam to prove competence. 


        Encouraging under-represented groups to join the accounting profession

          What are they doing about it? 

          The firm focus in the discussion was on ethnicity, presenting stats on the ethnic make-up of the US general population compared to the ethnic makeup of the accounting profession and highlighting the biggest gaps. 

          Okorie Ramsey showcased his considerable efforts and passion for encouraging under-represented groups to consider accounting whilst at high school and supporting those who embark on accounting degrees as they move through their studies towards their first role. 


          What can you do about it?  

          Does your accounting firm look like your community?  What business opportunities are you missing out on because your community doesn’t view your business as one they can relate to? 

          When you’re out there encouraging students to consider an accounting career, check yourself to ensure that encouragement is evenly spread across all of your community. 

          Take a forensic look at how and where you source staff.  Are you inadvertently missing out on sections of society who don’t engage with the media or channels you’re using?  If so, what do you need to change to appeal to other members of your community? 


          Those were my four takeaways.  I don’t claim them to be an exhaustive list of everything AICPA is working on, but rather the most prominent from the perspective of someone who has spent a whole career on the attraction, selection and retention of competent professionals. 


          Which one are you going to implement first? 


          Want to see if Accountests will work for your firm? Click on the button for a FREE trial test - use it on a candidate or get one of your staff to give it a go and see what they think.  
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          Steve Evans  |  Steve founded Accountests alongside a career using his expertise in candidate testing and assessment to support employers to attract, recruit, and develop talent. 

          Accountests  |  Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical skills, ability and personality tests designed by and for accountants and bookkeepers. 
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