Accounting Firms Take Long-Term Recruitment Approach

Big Four accounting firms are no longer focusing their recruitment efforts on college business schools, now they’re targeting high schools as well.

Taking a long-range view of workforce planning, firms are wooing high schoolers with internships, scholarships and college grants, according to the Wall Street Journal. The idea is to build relationships and loyalty that will sway the students to choose their firm upon college graduation.

Take Geovannie Concepcion as an example. Joining the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) in high school led him to a series of paid internships with PricewaterhouseCoopers. He received a $1,500 scholarship for his freshman year at DePaul University in Chicago. Now a sophomore, he hopes to join the firm after college.

FBLA membership may also help Charlette Beasley of Arkadelphia, Ark. She won top honors at a state FBLA competition, and finished fourth recently at a national competition, which tested her Accounting knowledge, the Daily Siftings Herald reported. Beasley plans to become an accounting major, and one thing she can count on is that accounting firms will come calling.

PwC, for one, holds seminars for high-school students on accounting careers and on the company itself. It gives students the chance to “shadow” PwC professionals. Internships that begin in college lead to full-time job offers 85 percent of the time, said Amy Van Kirk, vice president of recruiting for PwC. She told the Journal that interns who are hired full time have a high probability of being strong performers who stay with PwC longer.

Concepcion said: "It is a double-edged sword. ... There is this feeling that they are investing in training me and my loyalty belongs with them. I used to love the job-shadowing days with PwC in high school. Since then ... they have sort of earned a loyalty from me.”

Demand for accountants is higher than ever, thanks in part to the constantly changing financial regulations over the last few years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the employment of accountants will grow by 10-20 percent over the next seven years. Meanwhile, according to AccountingEducation.com, the number of Certified Public Accountants has increased by only 1 percent from 2003 to 2006.

"It is all about labor pull," said Mark Stoever, senior vice president of the consumer-business unit at Monster Worldwide Inc. He told the Journal, "Companies are gearing towards the best and most experienced professionals, and if there aren't many, why not train them to be that?

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