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Illinois CPA Society’s Internship Preparation Program Provides Opportunities for Minority Students

Jan 30th 2015
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The Illinois CPA Society hosted the Mary T. Washington Wylie (MTWW) Internship Preparation Program in January, providing 25 minority college students with unparalleled access to training and resources essential in the transition from student to professional.

The program is tailored to students from institutions of higher learning where accounting firms may not typically recruit. Each MTWW scholar was awarded a scholarship and interviewed for an internship with at least three of the seven participating accounting firms. In the three years since the program’s inception 75 students, representing 32 schools, have participated. To date, 43 students have received an internship or other offer.

During the three-day program students interacted with accounting and finance professionals from leading accounting firms and organizations as diverse as the Chicago White Sox, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Easter Seals. A highlight of the program, the Careers in Accounting Panel, addressed various career paths for CPAs. Panelists shared personal stories of how they found their niche in accounting, what daily workload to expect, how students could be successful in similar roles, and possible earning potential.

“It was a really great experience to meet and network with actual business professionals. The experience inspired me think about my own career path and how earning the CPA could lead to a variety of interesting jobs,” said Artaysia Clark, 2015 MTWW scholar.

New to this year’s program, students learned the value in marketing their personal brand, as well as tips to a successful mentorship. Participants learned how to recognize, develop and communicate their brand to “step up and stand out” from a crowded talent pool. They also gained insight into why mentors are so important, how to identify mentors and how to leverage those relationships.

Young professionals and past MTWW scholars shared with the students what it takes to earn an internship and receive a full-time position. In addition, the students participated in interactive sessions dedicated to business ethics, etiquette, team building, and the CPA exam. Other key components to the program included the much-anticipated advice students received about improving their resumes and interview skills from recruiters.

“I really appreciated the one-on-one feedback on my resume and the time professional recruiters dedicated to our group practice interview sessions. On the final day, I had enough confidence to “market myself” during my interviews, which may very well lead to an internship opportunity with an accounting firm,” said Deon Taylor, 2015 MTWW scholar.

“When I spoke with these students I was engaging with the future of the CPA profession, and it was an encouraging and uplifting experience. I was very impressed by these are remarkable young men and women,” said Illinois CPA Society President/CEO Todd Shapiro.

“Advancing diversity is crucial to the accounting profession’s sustainability,” added Shapiro. “CPAs must embrace and foster diversity within the profession to stay relevant in an increasingly multicultural environment.”

The all expenses paid program is funded by donations to the CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois’ Mary T. Washington Wylie Opportunity Fund. To be eligible, minority students must have sophomore or junior standing at an Illinois college or university during the previous school year, have a 3.0/4.0 GPA, and complete the application.

Essential to the program’s success was the generous support and involvement from the following accounting firms: Crowe Horwath LLP, Deloitte LLP, Ernst & Young LLP, Grant Thornton LLP, KPMG LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Sikich LLP. Each firm engaged the scholars in different formats: with speakers, volunteers, or mentors to help develop and facilitate the program.

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