New scheme provides 'access all areas' to the profession

by Sacha Romanovitch, Grant Thornton

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21 Jul 2014

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Trainees prefer small firms

THE ROUTE into the accounting profession open must be open to people from all parts of society in order to create a richness and diversity that will keep the profession relevant and create not just accountants, but great business advisers and future leaders.

With increasing frequency we are hearing from our clients how the battle for talent is becoming one of their biggest barriers to growth. It's an issue that is not only moving up the corporate agenda, but also the political one as government seeks to create an environment that will continue to allow the UK to grow and remain competitive on the global platform. The issue is no less serious within the accountancy profession and our historic definition of what this talent looks like that we are seeking to attract, is changing.

In order to broaden the talent pool, and attract talented young people to the profession, we and others have long recognised that we needed to create a step change. More was needed to improve access to and understanding of what it is to be an accountant and the array of jobs that are available to those from disadvantaged backgrounds across the country that we previously had not engaged with.

The launch of Access Accountancy earlier this year, was demonstration of the profession's commitment to increased social mobility within the profession and the development of a programme that seeks to provide everyone with an equal chance of accessing the profession based on merit, rather than background.

Through this initiative the profession aims to increase the reach into schools through outreach programmes and the provision of high quality work placements. This will help engage with pupils from less advantaged backgrounds who may never have considered pursuing a career in accountancy and have little concept of the scope and size of the opportunities available to those who train in the profession.

If we were to map school engagement it is highly likely that traditionally accountancy firms have been targeting a number of the same schools, unintentionally creating a barrier to entering the profession. If you don't have access to someone in the profession who can share their experience, explain the range of career options, inspire and support you to develop aspirations to be a professional, then you are already at a disadvantage; and so is the profession in terms of the huge pool of talent we are missing out on. The initiative aims to inspire, educate and in turn increase the number of young people who see accountancy as a real career opportunity.

There is already a strong commitment from a wide range of firms and industry bodies nationally and we need to build on this momentum. In order to continue to make a difference we need greater industry commitment. And not just from firms of accountants, but also professionals within industry who can engage with their local schools and provide industry work placements, offering yet another perspective of our diverse and rewarding profession.

The greater the commitment from both private practice and industry in signing up to Access Accountancy, the greater our success. To ensure a truly national outreach programme we need buy-in from business and firms in all areas, especially those with a strong presence outside of London and the other major conurbations.

This way we can truly help develop the profession to reflect the society it serves, unlock and recognise the talent that we have traditionally not tapped into and open the door to anyone who has the talent and desire regardless of background.

Sacha Romanovitch is head of London advisory and board member for people & culture at Grant Thornton UK

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