Letter from the CEO: Closing the skills gap…whose responsibility is it?

Written on Nov 13, 2017

If you attended a fall Advance session or recent learning event, you know that our team has been developing content and education around topics such as data analytics, blockchain and other technology applications for CPAs.

That’s been very intentional. We talk with members every day—new, mid-level and senior professionals about their top business and career challenges. Keeping pace with changing technology is always mentioned as both a top opportunity and concern.

Those same conversations then naturally move to finding qualified talent and to the graduate skills gap.

We’ve spent a lot of time sifting through surveys and other information and trying to wrap our heads around whether the gap is real or perceived. We’ve talked with CPAs in industry and firms and to educators who are preparing today’s graduates for tomorrow’s entry level roles.

It’s been an interesting journey as we think about how OSCPA and the profession can work together to equip graduates to be relevant in an environment that changes virtually overnight.

Here’s what we know:

The skills gap in entry level accounting and finance recruits isn’t new. But we’re hearing more about it as tools like data analytics and automation are moving swiftly into the front line of accounting and auditing practices.

An Accenture Survey estimates robotics could automate or eliminate 40% of basic accounting work by 2020. One of the top three concerns expressed by Ohio CPAs this year was learning new skills.

A 2014 survey of finance and HR professionals revealed that entry level job requirements have become more sophisticated and that skills employers listed as necessary aren’t those considered to be traditional entry-level skills. Among them: leadership, planning, budgeting, forecasting, and strategic thinking and execution.

The study, a partnership of the American Productivity & Quality Center and the Institute of Management Accountants, is backed up by a recent Robert Half Survey of 2,100 CFOs of U.S. companies. It found CFOs consider general business knowledge as the most-valued non-accounting skill in new recruits, followed by information technology, communication skills, leadership abilities and customer service orientation.

The evidence is clear that employers want grads to have a deeper skillset. The revised CPA exam has started to address some of these business needs. And Ohio educators are largely on board and working to evolve accounting education to make sure graduates’ skills

meet business expectations. That could take some

time, however.

In the meantime, there are ways to keep the process moving with innovative partnerships. KPMG launched a program in 2016 with The Ohio State University and Villanova University to develop a specialized data analytics curriculum for masters of accountancy students. It pairs classroom training with real-world application during a KPMG internship.

OSCPA is currently working on a multi-phase accounting workforce development program, as well. We are casting a wider net to attract more students to the profession. In addition, we’ve pulled together a group of educators, CPAs and talent directors to start defining talent gaps in Ohio graduates. Our research is in the early phases, but we know that students and young CPAs think they are more prepared than employees say they are.

We’re also exploring where the responsibility lies in closing the gap—with educators, the businesses who hire graduates, or both. We believe there are multiple options that could make sense. Stay tuned as we work through these discussions.

One thing we all can be certain of is that business and technology won’t wait for the profession to catch up. We must work together to ensure our graduates get the training they need to grow into strategic roles and tomorrow’s financial leaders. The reputation of the profession depends on it.

Scott Wiley, CAE
President & CEO
The Ohio Society of CPAs
(614) 764-2727, ext. 2218 (office)
(614) 546-9430 (cell)
Twitter: @ScottDWiley
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/scottwileycae

1 comment

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  1. Seriously?! | Dec 18, 2017

    Responsibility lies to BOTH the individual and to the company.

    Companies USED to train their employees but many companies almost eliminated training except for the bare bones like... this is the software used, etc...

    Businesses and business managers/owners are ALL hypocrites... wanted the 'best skilled' employees BUT do NOT want to PAY for them. Worse... they fire the Older, EXPERIENCED employees for younger employees just because it's CHEAPER even if efficiency drops. Adding insult to injury, companies/owners then B!TCH about how BAD it is to find 'good or reliable' employees.

    ^HYPOCRISY at its best including the article!

    Individuals are looking out for themselves because Companies sure are NOT.

    Unfortunately, it's a vicious cycle that happens in Every day life.

    Maybe IF companies treated their employees like 'valuable' assets instead of 'disposable' assets, would things look better for both the companies and the employees.


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