In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous workplace, accountants need to possess knowledge and skills across multiple disciplines. These include technological know-how, interpersonal and communication skills, critical thinking and creativity.
Longer and more structured internships, as well as apprenticeships are welcomed by the accountancy profession to enable accountancy students to understand real-world problems and determine where their passion lies.
These are some of the findings from a report produced by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA), and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), with the Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Accountancy coming on board as knowledge partner.
The report, entitled “Industry Perspectives: Future of Professional Learning and Entrepreneurship”, is the second “Our Future Together” collaboration between ISCA and ICAEW, which aims to discuss how education, training and professional learning could be redefined to better develop and prepare professional accountants for the future economy.
Soft skills more important than technical knowledge
Focus group discussions and interviews with senior leaders, employers and young professionals were undertaken as part of the project. The young professionals emphasized the importance of soft skills in the workplace. They found themselves lacking in essential soft skills such as interpersonal and communication skills when they entered the workplace.
The report highlighted the need for accountants to be multi-disciplinary, and to acquire and develop skills and knowledge such as psychology, leadership, negotiation, critical thinking, creativity, predictive analytics, understanding of computer coding / programming, economics, risks, project management, business writing and persuasion skills.
Such skills and knowledge will enable accountants to make better decisions as well as facilitate their role as business advisers.
The young professionals today are driven to learn new skills and are keen to have a broader spectrum of knowledge so as to be more versatile in today’s VUCA environment. This is in line with the government’s narrative to broaden the breadth and depth of one’s skills and knowledge.
Respondents mentioned that attributes such as intellectual curiosity, resilience, adaptability, professional skepticism and good emotional intelligence are vital for accountants to address challenges in the fast-changing environment.
Longer and more structured internships and apprenticeships
Internships and apprenticeships were viewed as critical components in enabling students to better understand real-world problems and the skills required of them in the workplace as well as discover where their passion lies. Such programs also provided employers the opportunity to find and identify talent. However, employers noted that a 10-week internship would be too short to realize these benefits.
To enable students to learn and apply skills, a more structured internship with longer duration was recommended. This will enable students to have a more meaningful internship. Students stand to gain practical industry experience, while employers stand to gain from the work done.
Apprenticeship was welcomed by both employers and students. Through apprenticeship, students can get a head start in determining if they like the course and pursue a career in their chosen field.
However, there were concerns, such as the potential increase in the period of study, as well as whether or not subsidies will be made available for willing students.
Traditionally, parents will want their children to finish school as soon as possible before joining the job market.
Education is only part of the solution
The report noted that education only counts as part of the solution to developing enterprising individuals. The whole ecosystem, including the environment, upbringing and peer influence, has a role to play in shaping the individual’s mindset.
Respondents including senior leaders, employers and young professionals shared that as the world becomes a more globalized market, young accountants should consider pursuing overseas exposure and opportunities. In particular, they should venture into emerging markets like ASEAN, where growth is immense. This will help them foster a more enterprising and adventurous spirit. This is in line with the CFE’s recommendation to deepen and diversify international connections.