Finance and Accounting Skills Gap

Finance and Accounting is Facing a Talent Crisis Part 1: The Education Gap

If you haven’t heard, the business community is facing a talent crisis. Driven by low unemployment, mismatched skillsets, and new expectations from job seekers, it’s becoming harder to find people, fill roles, and compete for talent. This has created a “war for talent” that over the past five years has intensified.

As the fight ramps up for the right talent, we’d like to take a look at some of the drivers behind this fight and some of the opportunities for companies to improve their ability to recruit and retain talent in 2018. In this multi-part series, we will explore some of the biggest talking points, including the skills and education gap, the compensation competition, and the opportunities employers have to capitalize.

The Skills and Education Gap

One of the biggest reasons that the right talent is so hard to find? The skills gap. From entry level to C-suite, there always seems to be something missing. Move up the ladder to staff accountants, controllers, and even CFOs, and there’s a different issue: Certain skillsets are just not there.

It’s been well known that an accounting education isn’t preparing students for their role as accountants. This has been an open secret since the 1986 Bedford Report, “Future Accounting Education: Preparing for the Expanding Profession,” sponsored by the American Accounting Association (AAA). The 1986 report found that there is a “growing gap between what accountants do and what accounting educators teach.”

The Education Gap

Even if this report created some initial momentum toward accounting education reform, a five-year initiative sponsored by the AAA and AICPA found that there was still room for improvement, leading to the creation of the Center for Advancing Accounting Education, as discussed in a recent CPA Journal article.

Unprepared to Transition from Entry-Level to Mid-Level

CPA Journal author Jeff Thomson goes on to report that “the traditional accounting curriculum is that it is too narrowly focused on financial accounting, particularly in audit, tax, statutory reporting, and compliance.” He continues, “within three years, half of [recent graduates] will leave public accounting to work in management accounting roles,” and “[the ones who stay in public accounting] find themselves shifting to consulting and advisory roles.”

The Long-Term Impact

Professionals who are vastly underprepared to make the early career transition need to learn on the fly. This means that they would either need to take time away from earning their CPE credits to study skills including Leadership, Budgeting and Forecasting, Strategy, and more or miss out on important learning opportunities. In turn, time passes, and the number of qualified candidates continues to drop, leading to increased challenges in finding the right people for the job.

Finding the Right People

As we continue through this series, we will explore the challenges further and discuss some of the opportunities available to employers, and welcome you to subscribe to our mailing list and follow us on LinkedIn to keep up to date. At rinehimerbaker, we know accounting, and we know how hard it is. That’s why we recently launched a new talent management and recruiting consultancy designed to help you bridge the skills gap. Learn more about this practice here, get in contact with us to learn more.

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