How to fix the crumbing talent pipeline in the accounting profession is a topic on the minds of many people these days. And it popped up at a session during the first day of the 2023 Unique CPA Conference, “Bridging the Gap,” in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, IL, on Tuesday.
During the panel discussion, “Accounting Across Generations: Assessing the Current State of the Industry,” the question, “What do we have to change to rebuild the talent pipeline in the accounting profession?” came from a person in the audience. One of the panelists, Jackie Cardello, president and managing partner of Bethesda, MD-based GRF CPAs & Advisors, said the stigma and the stereotype associated with CPAs and accountants—and the profession in general—needs to change, and that change can begin in high school.
“I’m on the advisory council of my alma mater, the Smith Business School at the University of Maryland. At one of the meetings we had, individuals from the different majors at the business school came to talk about why they chose their major,” she said. “The one who did choose accounting, obviously we didn’t ask this question, but to the others we asked: Why didn’t you choose accounting? Pretty much overwhelmingly they said it was because you have to have an accounting degree and a CPA, which isn’t true. You don’t have to be a CPA. Firms are looking at non-traditional hires and non-CPAs. But they also overwhelming said it’s boring, it’s stuffy, you do taxes or audit. That’s it, you sit at a desk all day and crunch numbers, and that’s not true either, particularly if you’re in public accounting or doing consulting work for clients. There’s a lot more to it than doing audit and tax. Working with clients is incredibly rewarding. Clearly the profession has evolved into forensics, you have risk advisory, ESG, internal audit, cybersecurity. We have not done a good job of messaging that to future generations and those who might be interested in accounting.
“We need to start that messaging at the high school level,” Cardello continued. “There are a lot of high schools that offer basic accounting courses to get kids interested. They explain what accounting is, why it’s important, and here’s why it’s a good foundation regardless of what career path you follow or what profession you choose. It’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of what accounting is and why it’s important to understand a basic financial statement. Accounting is not a well-marketed profession. It’s not glamorous. But that should be the game plan.”