Future talk: educators, CPAs tackle challenges, opportunities.
CalCPA recently assembled key accounting educators, select practitioners from top firms and accounting regulators to explore the challenges (and opportunities) the profession and our educational system face.
"We seek to gain a better understanding of the common ground and divergent views to forge a path for CalCPA to strengthen the role of CPAs in our society in the next decade," said Charles Osaki, co-chair of CalCPA's Accounting Education Committee, which put on the Educator Practitioner Forum-Pathway to Excellence.
CalCPA Chair Greg Burke, who's made accounting education one of his term's key initiatives, said his hope is to "provide financial and human resources to address the growing shortage of accounting educators."
Other aspects of initiative include:
* The CalCPA Fellowship Program, which will provide financial resources to California colleges and universities to attract and retain Ph.D.s.
* CalCPA member involvement in accounting programs, such as serving on accounting department advisory boards.
* Identifying opportunities for CPAs to teach in colleges and universities, and providing necessary training to make the leap from CPA to instructor.
The forum's first two sessions focused on practitioners' thoughts on the biggest challenges facing the accounting profession and, in terms of knowledge, skills and abilities of students entering public accounting, what area is in the greatest need of improvement?
Panelists discussed ideas from spotlighting accounting careers in high school to generational differences between young CPAs and their more experienced counterparts.
"How do you connect the millennial mindset regarding work/life balance, etc., with client expectations?" asked Philip Holthouse, a partner at Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt LLP. "There's a mismatch in what partners think is hard work and what millennials think is working hard."
The move to International Financial Reporting Standards also was cited as an important issue.
"Lots of education is needed in this area," said Jeff Pearson, CPA, partner with Burr, Pilger & Mayer LLP. "It's a huge monster out there for the profession."
Among the knowledge, skills and abilities accounting students should have upon graduating, panelists cited analytical thinking, written communication skills, technical accounting knowledge, problem solving skills, research skills and high ethical standards.
"Analytical and critical thinking is absolutely essential," said Gretchen Valentine, CPA, MBT, a managing director with RSM McGladrey. "Can they work on their own and do their own critical thinking?"
The academic panel discussed the biggest challenges academics face and potential partnering opportunities between academia and practitioners. There was no doubt about the main challenge: increasing faculty.
"We're having to rely on part-time faculty and we have issues with that." said Susan Parker, associate professor at Santa Clara University.
One of those issues, she said, is lack of consistency, and unavailability of the faculty outside of the classroom.
But all is not lost, as panelists cited steps they're taking to increase faculty.
"We have to look at some of the more non-traditional types of profiles to fill the gaps we have," said David Stewart, dean of the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management at UC Riverside. "For example, people who have been in practice for a while, but have academic credentials."
Parker also cited recruiting from the professional ranks.
"We are looking to people who have professional experience because we want to put in front our students in the lecture hall and also in advising, someone who can bring real-world experiences to share."
Doctoral scholarships at the CalCPA and AICPA level also are helping boost the supply of accounting educators.
CalCPA's Doctoral Scholarship Program is awarded to up to three Ph.D. candidates per year. Each candidate receives S10,000 per year for a maximum of three years. In return, recipients agree to join the faculty of a four-year college or university in California for a period of at least three years.
Denny Riegle, the AICPA's director of academic and career development, discussed during the Forum the AICPA's Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program, to which CalCPA has contributed $50,000.
More than 70 of the country's largest CPA firms, along with other state CPA societies, have pledged $15 million to the program to provide funding for up to 30 new accounting Ph.D. candidates each year for four years.
"If we can put more accounting Ph.D.s in the classrooms, we can help change lives," said Burke.
Aldo Maragoni is CalCPA's communications manager. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in California and helping tomorrow's CPAs? You can apply for CalCPA's doctoral scholarship at www.calcpa.org/Content/Scholarship.aspx. The application deadline is April 15.
For more information on the AICPA's Accounting Doctoral Scholars program, visit www.adsphd.org.