There should be no debate about the need for a change in the direction of accountancy education and training, as proposed by the English ICA in the green paper ‘Creating the Added Value Business Adviser’.
This document finally addresses the issues which have been raised over a number of years and undoubtedly takes the training proposition in the right direction. The debate can only sensibly be around the detail and not about the principles which the paper proposes.
The existing system of a standard examination pathway for all fails to satisfy the trainees who often comment that it is not relevant to what they do at work. They see it as a barrier to entry to membership of the English ICA rather than a development process. They learn exam technique, including rote learning to pass the professional exams, and then learn other skills to do their work.
In recent years there has been a proliferation of alternative professional qualifications. For the large training firms this means specialist functions such as corporate finance, tax and corporate recovery can opt out of English ICA training and, similarly, in the smaller training firms AAT and ACCA have become more popular.
Furthermore, the training of ACA professionals in industry has remained at a disappointingly low level and this must reflect concerns about the relevance and costs of the training.
The historic demand for ACA professionals has been fuelled by the perception that the ACA qualification provides a strong basis for a sound business career. This demand is now under threat.
Business is becoming more focused in its provision of training. It is an anomaly, then, that the English ICA training has remained so general in nature.
The green paper proposals now offer an opportunity to establish a framework to maintain the English ICA qualification as a top grounding for a career in business.
It is no longer sufficient to allow the world around us to change while the cornerstone of the profession remains fixed. I hope there will be strong support for the proposals and that there can be a sensible debate about the content of syllabuses.
David Miller is the National Graduate Recruitment partner at KPMG.
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