Shifting client expectations and market demand have prompted a prominent firm to assign graduates to more “interpersonal” roles, which Australian universities and accounting students alike are increasingly targeting their learning towards.
Member firm of mid-tier Walker Wayland, Power Tynan, is fast-tracking its graduates’ “real life experiences” by shifting their focus away from purely transactional and administrative based tasks, according to chief executive Paul Hilton.
This is a response to several market factors, a prominent one being that the nature of administrative work — typically the domain of entry-level accountants — continues to change.
To keep ahead of the market, assigning graduates to work that can be either wholly or largely automated is not a competitive approach, Mr Hilton told Accountants Daily.
“There are dollar pressures for that work. Clients are educated, and we need to change,” Mr Hilton said.
“We’re trying to implement that approach so that our graduates are fast-tracked into their profession. Because of AI and digital, that lower end accounting type work is disappearing,” he said.
This approach is also a response to the growing demand from clients for interpersonal relationships, which is where Mr Hilton is increasingly seeing value for current and prospective client bases, where he sees the most value for graduates.
“A university is never going to sit anyone in front a client. It’s real life pressures, real life client engagement, real life team engagement,” he said.
Education in focus
Macquarie University, which has a sizable accounting faculty, is increasingly focusing on how to teach “emotional intelligence” to its students. Its accounting department head, Dr Rahat Munir, runs focus groups with mid-tier and big four firm representatives, finding a defined demand for students who can “think critically” and appropriately manage and represent emotions.
“If you are in a commercial organisations, you take a lot of decisions, and monitor a lot of emotions. How you manage and mitigate risks have emotions attached, and the employee has to manage that,” he told Accountants Daily.
“It relates to in-job performance and better relationships to more stakeholders,” he said.
Similar to Power Tynan, the university is focusing on integrating real-world experience to its course offerings, in response to expectations of employers.
“My focus in blending knowledge with skills, and introducing experiential learning into our program - learning by doing,” Dr Munir said.
Undergraduate accountant at Pitcher Partners, Arlen Dabinett, told Accountants Daily an element of real-world training he feels is lacking at the tertiary level is the integration of software and technology teaching.
“Technology is a big part of how we complete our day-to-day work,” Mr Dabinett said. “Once you get into the real world, some of the graduates doing tax returns haven’t really learnt the software.”
Software firms like Intuit Australia previously told Accountants Daily that the accounting education system in Australia hasn’t evolved to include the software-based skills students will need to hit the ground running.
Source: Taurian, K. (2017, August 10). Major uni, mid-tier reacts to 'disappearing' roles [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.accountantsdaily.com.au/news/10655-major-uni-mid-tiers-react-to-disappearing-roles?