Is your accounting firm making the most of its new grads?

The role of graduates is changing. As low-level work is increasingly outsourced, firms are contemplating how to make accounting graduates effective in the early part of their career lifecycle. Are your graduates gaining the skills they need to be effective now and in the future?

The changing role of graduates – bearing the brunt of industry changes

As more firms send basic tax work offshore to benefit from lower cost labour, two issues are created: low-level compliance work, on which graduates ¬previously cut their teeth, is less readily available, while outsourcing engagements require a different ¬partner-to-staff ratio that includes fewer graduates and more managers.

These trends, which are already affecting the number of graduates firms take on, have the potential to dramatically alter the career path of accounting graduates and flatten the hierarchical management structure of accounting firms.

With these changes, many firms are being forced to consider how to make their graduates effective in the earliest part of their career lifecycle. They are questioning how to address the even wider skills gap between graduates leaving university and starting in the profession, and what impact this will have down the track when employees lack the fundamental knowledge that was traditionally built through compliance work.

Growing up quickly – advising clients earlier

A number of firms, particularly larger firms, are responding by adapting their training programs to make graduates more relevant to clients earlier in their career.

This involves young practitioners being exposed to more technical client work earlier and so becoming more skilled in advisory work earlier, generally with the added benefit of financial gain for both the graduate and the firm.

However some question whether graduates, at this early stage of their career, are mature and knowledgeable enough to deal directly with client issues and behave and respond appropriately.

Graduates themselves have told us  that one of their main challenges, in addition to understanding tax complexity and relevant tax laws, is meeting and managing clients.

Building well-rounded young tax professionals – are your training plans keeping up?

Whether you offer a formal or informal training program for your graduates, your new recruits require more than just technical training.

To become well rounded and valued members of the team, graduates need solid tax knowledge and skills, but they also now need the ability to apply this knowledge and make sound decisions and professional judgements, as well as the ability to interact with clients and colleagues in an effective, reliable and appropriate manner.

The Tax Institute is offering a new seminar series designed to transition your graduates from ‘book smart’ to ‘work smart’. It has been designed in response to employer and graduate feedback to help young practitioners become more well-rounded and valuable to their firm and clients earlier in their career.

The program has been developed exclusively for practitioners with less than three year’s tax experience who want to build their confidence in assessing client situations, contributing to client discussions, and making sound professional judgements in situations with both clients and colleagues. It will also help graduates understand the importance of self-awareness when building a strong personal brand and becoming a positive ambassador of their organisation.

This five part series will be held in Sydney commencing April 2015.

Training for young tax practitioners is held in each state. For more information please visit our website and search by your location.

To find out more visit our website or email Cherish Renshaw.

Jessi Towns is National Project Manager at The Tax Institute.

The Tax Institute is Australia’s leading professional association in tax. Its 13,000 members include tax agents, accountants and lawyers as well as tax practitioners in corporations, government and academia.

[1]Surveys and focus groups undertaken in 2014 as part of The Tax Institute’s Lifecycle Project.


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