Graduates said to be ill-prepared for shifting accounting landscape
The gap between graduate accountants and the skill set they need to enter the industry is growing, according to a well-known firm.
Power Tynan chief executive Paul Hilton says job prospects for accounting graduates are diminishing because basic compliance-type work is being taken over by automation.
“The job prospects for graduate accountants aren’t really high because the business as usual model isn’t there because their basic training ground is starting to be automated so we, as employers, need to somehow find an education gap to get them fast-tracked to become a higher level advising accountant,” Mr Hilton said.
“At the end of the day, analytics will do nearly everything. Standard business reporting is going to the ATO, they will do that. We won’t be putting in numbers anymore, the analytics of it the computers will do that.
“We need to be able to look at the numbers and explain to our clients how to improve their businesses from those numbers, and part of that is managing people and how to improve and challenge our clients to be better managers and business owners and operators.”
Mr Hilton said this shift to advisory work has pushed accountants away from their computer screens and to improve on their emotional intelligence to deal with the demands of clients today.
“Traditionally, the accounting profession were number driven, number crunchers so to speak. That’s disappearing,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the personality profile of accountants is that they are not traditionally a client-facing person, and we need to be retrained and the younger people need to be upskilled very quickly to be relevant.”
However, Moore Stephens senior accountant James Fitzgerald believes graduates need to embed themselves in the basics first before aspiring to climb the accounting ladder.
“I think, as young accountants, we still need to do a lot of compliance work to build up our technical skills and our knowledge, but clients are wanting more. They don’t just want tax returns and financial statements. They want real-time data, they want to know exactly what’s going on with their company and they want some advice,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“You definitely still need to do the hard yards, to do the basic compliance and really build up your technical knowledge obviously before you can start advising clients and understanding their needs, you really need to understand the law and accounting principles.”
Both men agreed that the best way to plug the gap is for employers and industry leaders to step up and provide training, or as Mr Hilton suggested, overhaul the university curriculum.
“The accounting profession is no different to any other profession. It will be disrupted,” he said.
“I really challenge anyone to say that automation is not going to turn our industry upside down.”