On Thursday evening I was invited to attend a welcome function for the Guest Speakers / Industry Professionals that are part of the new unit being run by Macquarie University titled ACCG315 – Accountants in The Profession. I have been asked to be one of the first batch of Industry Professionals, representing the SME space of accountants and public practitioners.

Along with myself, there are representitives from all strands of the profession. Big Four, Publicly Listed entities, Commerce, Banking, Not for Profit & Government as well as CPA Australia. (side note, I wonder if the ICAA was invited?)

The aim of the unit is to expose final year accounting students to as many of the different parts of the profession that it can over the course of the unit. It hopes to help the students identify which parts of the profession will suit their particular skill sets and interests. It will give them the opportunity to perform a skills gap analysis on themselves as they prepare to make the transition from student to employee.

They will be spoken to by industry representatives in a lecture format and then complete personal course work and a group assessment which is marked in part by the industry reps as well. Essentially they will be being assessed by those persons and organisations who may one day be their future employers if they chose to follow the career of an accountant. This will surely provide both students and university staff with a fresh perspective on what us industry professionals are expecting of our new graduates when we employ them.

Overall the unit hopes to make graduates more “job ready”. As many in the profession know graduates of accounting degrees, whilst armed with good technical and theoretical knowledge, lack any real hands on skills and the investment required to be put into a new graduate in terms of the job training to get them “job ready” and able to complete work efficiently is quite large.

I am hopeful that this is just the start of University degrees having a greater focus on developing practical skills as well as teaching the important theoretical skills in a subject area and building an undergraduates critical thinking skills. Hopefully this greater industry participation filters down into earlier degree units. For example, Accounting 1A and 1B in the commerce degree at Mac Uni are completed in year 1. By graduation, most employees have forgotten the fundamental basics of how to perform a bank reconciliation, which is mainly because since year 1 they have not had to perform another one (so really, no fault of their own). !

A number of focus groups I have participated in have asked what is a barrier to employing a new graduate and the lack of practical skills is always my answer. I go on to add that it is more cost effective to employ an undergraduate student and develop them that way (even at the risk of losing them when they have finished their degree) than it is to employee a new graduate who has a high starting salary expectation.

The Unit kicked off this week and the first round of industry speakers starts soon. I will be speaking on April 10th. I’ll post some regular update on how the unit is going as the weeks go on.