State of the accounting profession discussed at Illinois trade show

"This is a very, very good time for the accounting profession," said Elaine Weiss, president and CEO of the Illinois CPA Society, kicking off the Society's 27th annual Business & Technology Solutions Show in the opening keynote address.

Weiss's commentary on the state of the profession included descriptions of bulging accounting classrooms, professor shortages, professional challenges being addressed and met, and concerns about succession planning as the aging Baby Boom generation accountants approach retirement.

After reminding her audience that they might be competing for business with a tax preparer "halfway around the world," Weiss segued into a discussion of demographics and the importance of diversifying the accounting workforce. "Minority representation is low" both in the classroom and the workforce, she explained. To illustrate her point, Weiss described the current workforce of those age 60 and over as being 80 percent Caucasian, 9 percent African American, 7 percent Hispanic, and 3 percent Asian, while the demographic makeup of the youth of American today, aka tomorrow's customers, is 58 percent Caucasian, 15 percent African American, 20 percent Hispanic, and 4 percent Asian. "We need to change the profession to meet the needs of clients we serve," she said.

Weiss was particularly excited about the new mobility of profession bill that was recently passed in Illinois and is waiting to be signed into law. Weiss explained that states need to pass this legislation in order to bring a driver's license-like approach to CPA mobility in order to serve CPAs with clients across state lines.

A year ago, four states had passed mobility legislation. Now, nine states have passed and signed such legislation, and mobility legislation has been passed and is waiting to be signed into law in another nine states.

Weiss also emphasized the need to encourage accounting students to pursue advanced studies and consider teaching as a career. "There is a 50 percent demand and supply gap," she said, referring to the need for accounting PhDs to teach at the university level. "Accounting is currently the number one declared major."

The Business & Technology Solutions Show, featuring nine tracks of varied training sessions and over 120 vendors, continues through Wednesday.

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