The labor market upheavals marking this year have not been limited to any one sector or jurisdiction, and the global accounting profession is no exception to this turbulence. Professional accounting organizations across the globe are noticing a either a downward trend in students pursuing and graduating with accounting degrees or a concern that even if students continue to join the profession, demand for what a professional accountant can do is outstripping the supply of trained or qualified professional accountants. Tasked with making the accounting profession an attractive and life-long career choice for young people, PAOs and firms are attempting to find the best way to attract new people to the accountancy profession.
It's a difficult undertaking, for many reasons. Accounting tends to be less visible than, say, law and medicine, but equally crucial to the success of capital markets, of industry and of a transparent society. The profession, with its ability to establish the sustainable utilization of resources and integrate ESG factors into strategy and operations, is also becoming more relevant in today’s globalized economy. PAOs also report than attracting new talent is one task—retaining talents is another, and with it, balancing challenging, edifying work with rapidly evolving regulatory expectations.
At the same time that the accountancy profession seeks pathways to attract and retain talent, Gen Z finds itself looking more and more for work has a social impact, with large companies, and not necessarily in large urban areas. As the a demographic more vulnerable to job loss, they may be seeking positions that are stable and offer long-term employment opportunities and benefits. The key now is ensuring that young professionals and the accounting profession are in conversation with each other.
At a recent PAO and Firm Education Director Knowledge Exchange, the Saudi Organization for Chartered and Professional Accountants (SOCPA) shared their proactive objectives that they have developed, focused on aligning accounting education outputs and the accounting labor market in Saudi Arabia. Their objective is in line with Vision 2030, which focuses on ensuring qualified grads meet the needs of the economy. Increasing the number of accounting professionals will enable economic sectors to obtain appropriate accounting and auditing services.
To ensure these services are available, Saudi Arabia has trained 4,500 students, offering free and discounted training courses to prepare them. SOCPA has translated seven new international books in accounting and auditing. SOCPA has found regular visits to universities, including to non-accounting departments, are a simple way to motivate students to get professional accounting certificates. As a result of these efforts, 5,435 students registered for membership with SOCPA (which became free for students and recent grads in 2018).
SOCPA has completed 8 of its 10 implementation steps of its first perspective. A survey of accounting jobs in various public and private sectors in KSA and preparing a model study plan in line with market needs have not been accomplished yet but are in progress.
In sharing their approach to attracting talent to the accountancy profession, SOCPA has established another key to ensuring talented young professional become professional accountants: collaboration. Sharing information about what has worked (and what has not worked) to attract—and retain—new professional accountants will be essential for the profession as time goes on. Above all, data is needed to help demonstrate exactly how many new accountants are needed, how students are graduating with accounting degrees compared to decades previous, and how many are still working as accountants 2-3 years after graduating. With these data, PAOs will be able to create actionable steps with specific goals to capitalize on the talents of a new generation of professional accountants.
There is much more to be done in this area but it is one that must be tackled as a global profession. The problem of maintaining a sufficient pool of qualified professional accountants itself is multi-faceted and while not every issue is applicable to every jurisdiction, working together to grow the pool of talent and ensuring it includes individuals with a passion for areas such as technology and sustainability will be key to the successful resiliency of the profession.
Ground-breakers: Gen Z and the future of accountancy, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
A Change of Pace For Gen Z Employees Entering the Workforce, Glassdoor Economic Research