There may be a talent shortage in accounting. But there’s also another big issue for CFOs to think about—finance and accounting professionals who need upskilling.
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the U.S. Department of Labor have recently launched the Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners program, in which companies elect to participate. When training is completed, apprentices will receive the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation. The new program will “help ensure diverse, skilled teams are ready to fill financial jobs now and in the future,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said in a statement.
To find out more about the program, I had a chat with Tom Hood, EVP of business engagement and growth at AICPA. “We have the Future of Finance Leadership Advisory group, which has about 50 corporate CFOs,” Hood told me. “What they’ve told us is that people coming out of college, even if they were on a five-year CPA track, they don’t have the job-ready skills they need. So, beyond the college education, it’s the heavy finance and accounting things that you need to know—business models, supply chain—all those kinds of complex finance topics are in that CGMA program.”
The coursework is facilitated by the AICPA. Will there be an element of the program that involves CPA curriculum? “This is definitely different from the CPA track, which is basically a five-year college education track,” Hood says. “Now, we do believe that some people coming through the finance and accounting registered apprenticeship will suddenly open up to even more career options, and could want to be a CPA, but this one’s really geared to corporate finance professionals.” The program aims to help companies build a talent pipeline and accelerate upskilling and rescaling that’s necessary because of all the transformation that’s happening, he says.
Upskilling corporate finance professionals at all levels
Any company can participate in the apprenticeship, he says. But “we’re actually focusing on larger employers just to get some, what we would call traction and scale,” Hood says. Liberty Bank, HP, Inc., and Aon are the first three companies to sign on. The career levels of the apprentices can vary from entry-level to seasoned professionals.
“The program allows employees from across all different spectrums of their career development into the program with cohorts at their learning level, supplemented with a strong mentorship program,” Paul Young, senior executive vice president and CFO of Liberty Bank, said in a statement.
I asked Mike Neller, global controller and chief accounting officer at Aon, if this apprenticeship is an innovative way to develop talent internally. “I would say that’s exactly right,” Neller told me. “The program will start in the beginning of 2023 with our U.S.-based early career finance colleagues,” he says. “Our goal is to have about 20 colleagues or so in the first group of participants.”
Participants will continue to receive their same salaries, he says. Regarding time commitment, “It’s something that their managers will be made aware of knowing that there is a workload associated with it,” Neller says. “We’ll be sure to be mindful of the total workload for each of the colleagues.”
“Like any pilot, it’s something that you’re doing because you hope it is going to take off,” he says. “We’re doing this with the expectation that it will be widely accepted, and something that our colleagues want. And so assuming we’re correct, I think you would see a natural expansion of the program in future years.” In addition to participating in this program, Aon also has its own apprenticeship program, Neller says.
The apprenticeship program will launch at HP, Inc. in 2023 “with hiring from graduates of historically black colleges and universities to drive more diverse and equitable talent across our team,” Marie Myers, CFO at HP, said in a statement. HP announced on Nov. 22 that the company plans to reduce headcount over the next three years. However, this does not affect HP’s participation in the program, a company representative told me.
The apprenticeship program is meant to address talent development, “the absolute biggest issue facing all of our corporate finance and accounting folks,” Hood says. “It won’t solve it,” he says. “But it will start to create alternative pathways. We’re working with a whole lot of employers that are helping us think through this and shape it as we go.”
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