‘Boring’ accountancy continues to attract graduates

Last week’s Accountancy Age/Reed Accountancy Personnel Big Question survey revealed that 69% of financial directors would recommend their occupation as a career to their children.

Financial directors, apparently, believe that the advantages of accountancy make it a top choice for graduates on the hunt for a job with prospects.

This combined with the increase in applications for training courses over the last few years suggests the profession remains popular despite the stereotypes.

Simon Cooke graduated last year with a 2:1 in economics and is currently training to be an ACCA-certified qualified accountant.

Before he entered the job market, accountancy had never crossed his mind as a possible career option, though he admits that the main reason for choosing a degree in economics was that it would help him to find a financially-based job.

‘My parents are really pleased,’ he says. ‘They see it as a useful skill. It is also quite well respected even if it is seen as fuddy duddy’. However, as a freestyle BMX rider, Cooke gets a lot of laughs when he tells people that he is an accountant: ‘My friends see it as quite funny, I don’t fit the accountancy stereotype. However, I have learnt that accountants do not conform to the popular image.’

Like Cooke , trainee accounting technician Joanne Bilby didn’t plan to enter the accountancy profession. She says the general lack of interest amongst the early twenties job market in accountancy is the result of its career reputation: ‘People see anything to do with money as boring. It’s not really seen as something that young people do’ she says.

But the attractive training programmes many firms are now offering graduates are changing that. They recognise that perhaps the biggest drawcards of the job to graduates and school leavers are the starting wage and continuing financial rewards.

Big Five firm PricewaterhouseCoopers offers interest-free loans to graduate recruits to help pay off student loans, as well as providing a ‘settling in allowance’.

Firms are using increasingly imaginative methods in the drive to recruit university leavers.

Nigel Hutchinson, recruitment manager at mid-tier accountancy firm PKF, stresses the importance of innovation in the way companies attract new members.

He says: ‘You can’t afford to stand still, you have to think about how we get to the new generation. It may be a cliched term but there really is a talent war with an increasing demand for the really good graduates’.

The company plans to follow KPMG with a new online registration scheme, a move that takes into consideration the amount of time students now spend on the web and recognises the attraction of a well designed website.

With applications up this year and an increasing number of women choosing accountancy as a career – 40% of this years applicants were female – it would seem that graduates no longer take much stock of the old image. In particular, the qualification is seen to provide a way into a range of different career options.

‘I am attracted by the money’, says ACCA-trainee Cooke, ‘but the skills also give you a lot of freedom. People with accountancy qualifications work in a great variety of areas’.

Hutchinson agrees that university leavers are becoming more conscientious when it comes to career choice.

‘I don’t think the old perceptions hold true anymore,’ he says. ‘Graduates look very closely at the firms they’re interested in, they want to know which are the biggest and which have the best packages on offer. We have no problems in finding people who want to be accountants, we have problems finding the right candidates.’


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