Accountancy students facing pandemic career delays

Accountancy students facing pandemic career delays

Amidst cancelled exams and revoked internships, there are concerns that the accountants of the future are being left behind

Accountancy students facing pandemic career delays

Up-and-coming accountancy talent run the risk of being left behind as universities cancel classes and firms re-evaluate 2020 internships.

With over 160,000 accounting students in the UK and Republic of Ireland some membership bodies have decided to run some exams using remote invigilation, while others have postponed all exams until the autumn.

Andrew Harding, chief executive – management accounting at The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), said via email that they expect a downturn in recruitment for emerging talent due to coronavirus.

“The road ahead will of course be difficult, but management accountants can really put their competencies to use and showcase how much value they bring to businesses, even in the most uncertain and complex times,” Harding said. “We can only hope that we experience a quick economic bounce back and recovery.”

As the pandemic drags on, some universities have already begun preparing to provide distance learning for the rest of the year if necessary. In the industry, BDO and PwC have cancelled all summer internships, with PwC choosing to instead offer online work experience.

Clive Webb, head of business management at ACCA, says students working towards their degrees will still receive their certifications, albeit a few months later than they expected pre-coronavirus.

“Instead of offering internships, what [firms have] done is translate that into job offers for 2021,” Webb says. “I think there was a call out to employers to come up with those innovative solutions, recognising that it’s not necessarily this year that is going to be impacted.

“It may be next year, when people who relied on things like internships or relied on getting experience to make their career choices, won’t have that experience over the summer because of the various impacts.”

Students have been advised to bulk up their CVs to fill potential experience lurches, but Webb says firms will have to be reasonable about the lack of internships on future applications.

He suggests that waylaid talent look into honing their soft and digital skills, particularly as the industry is set to change how it works remotely in the future.

However, many firms have also halted their graduate recruitment programmes, with job site Milkround reporting that only 18 percent of Gen Z graduates have a job lined up – a far cry from the 60 percent of students seen in past years.

Sharon Spice, the ICAEW’s director of global student recruitment, said via email that these delays and difficulties are not unique to the UK, but that there has been a swift response on the matter from employers.

“Some firms have been hiring virtually or at least in part for some time, but many others are having to rapidly adapt their hiring processes to attract talent throughout the coronavirus crisis by recruiting virtually,” Spice said.

“The larger organisations are using technology to attract, search, select and recruit candidates now, whilst also adjusting their internship programmes so that they can be delivered online.”

However, it remains to be seen how deeply these changes will impact new talent for the rest of 2020, and even into 2021.

“One thing that’s clear from the number of employers posting their vacancies on our training vacancies website is that businesses still need talented people to help them survive and thrive in the future,” Spice said.

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