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Accountants and universities have to start investing in graduates for the sake of the industry, according to a leading boutique firm.
MMT Accountants + Advisers Dean Sammut believes accounting graduates need to be equipped with people skills, while maintaining a firm grasp of basic technical knowledge to succeed in the long term.
“I think our industry is going to have a big problem if we don’t start investing in the young guys coming through,” Mr Sammut said.
“I think the view is that a lot of people coming out of university won’t be needed anymore because those low-level jobs are either now being outsourced or just don’t simply exist because of automation through technology but I don’t necessarily see that, it’s just a different skill set that they need.
“It’s really those low-level jobs where accountants learn a lot of the basic skills to deliver the advisory services.”
Mr Sammut said universities have to update their course structure to help equip future accountants with these different skills to remain relevant in a constantly changing accounting landscape.
“[Universities] need to be focusing more on looking forward, rather than in the rear view mirror, as traditional accountants have always been taught so they need to learn skills more around improving how businesses perform in real time and the use of big data which will really help shape the accuracy of forecasting.”
The biggest opportunities in the industry will come in the advisory space and accountants will need to upskill their soft skills to be successful, Mr Sammut said.
He said compliance-type work will never go out of fashion, but will instead become cheaper as technology improves.
“The biggest opportunities are in advisory and client-facing business advisory like actually meeting with the client more than once a year and actually helping their businesses grow rather than telling them 11 months after the year end that they’ve got a tax bill and this is what they should have done,” Mr Sammut said.
“Become more personable, it’s really the people skills that will help you be a success in accounting going forward because the number cruncher that was the back office person is going to become less relevant.
“That’s where the industry will be getting more interesting and cooler to a certain degree, if I can say that about accounting.”