The Smoke Detector: How can you help attract and motivate the next generation of CPAs?

By Dennis Hickle posted 09-12-2017 15:40


Staffing continues to be a concern for the CPA profession. Numerous articles have been written about the war for talent. As an educator, the start of a new academic year always leads me to look for ways to inspire the best and brightest student to consider a career in accounting. Because most colleges and universities require all business majors and many non-business majors to take an introductory account course, we have the opportunity to identify and hopefully influence the students we want to attract. These students have a wide variety of academic and career options. Learning about debits, credits, and journal entries will not motivate these elite students to choose a career in accounting. They want to be challenged to employ critical thinking skills, solve problems and make a difference.

War for TalentYou can be the key to attracting and motivating the next generation of CPAs. There is a good article in the September edition of the Journal of Accountancy entitled “Inspiring the next generation: How CPAs can contribute on campus.” This article makes the point that having individuals who are actively involved in the profession come to campus and share their experiences can help create a CPA culture.

This article suggests several activities you can engage in that will help elevate the profile of the CPA profession.

  • Serve as a guest speaker for an accounting class, accounting club or other student organization
  • Serve as a judge for student projects and presentation
  • Attend a career fair
  • Serve on the university’s accounting advisory council

These are all good ideas that help students develop a better understanding of the profession. However, as someone who routinely teaches introductory account courses I believe there are several ways you can have an even greater impact on the students. Because the material presented in the introductory account courses focus on the basic rules and structure of accrual basis accounting, students can get the impression that they will spend their days preparing routine journal entries.

We need you to help us tell a more compelling story that will attract and motivate the top students. 

  • Serve as a guest speaker for an accounting class, accounting club or other student organization. Being on campus talking to students is by far one of the best ways you can influence students. However, if we want to attract the best students we need to tell a more compelling story. As you are telling students about the challenges and rewards of working with clients and your role in the company focus on the things that students find attractive. Talk to them about the role technology plays in the profession now, and what you see changing in the future. Emphasize the data analytics that you use and provide examples where critical thinking and professional judgement are required.
  • Assist faculty in developing realistic case studies. There are very few case studies which are appropriate for introductory accounting classes that challenge students to think through the impact and implication of accounting decisions. You can help demonstrate the vitality of the CPA profession by working with faculty members to create case studies that reflect real life issues you or your clients have encountered.
  • Provide opportunities for collaboration with students and faculty. To reach students that have not yet committed to an accounting major these activities would need to be appropriate for the introductory accounting students. Activities could include:
    • Office tours
    • Invitations to key business events in your community
    • Tours of client facilities that you coordinate. This would provide students an improved understanding of industry and demonstrate your key role as a trusted advisor to those businesses.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these and other ideas that can help us attract and motivate the next generation of CPAs. What ideas do you have that will help us tell a more compelling story?

#WarforTalent #recruiting #criticalthinking #Problemsolving