By Jason Bramwell
The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) recently launched a website that is designed to engage accounting and finance professionals, students, employers, and academics in a dialogue about the talent gap within the accounting profession.
The Competency Crisis website, which launched in early October, is a platform for each group to come together to learn more about the talent gap problem, discuss their experiences, and work toward a common solution, according to IMA President and CEO Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE.
"Organizations are increasingly looking for professionals who can wear many hats, but they're struggling finding employees who can fill strategic roles", Thomson said in a minute-long video posted on CompetencyCrisis.org. "At the same time, studies show that college accounting curriculum doesn't match the skills currently needed in the workforce. This skills gap is not new; it has been growing for more than a quarter century. But it's a problem for the profession, one that we can't afford to ignore and one that needs a solution now."
According to the IMA, research and analysis have shown a wide discrepancy exists between what employers need from accounting and finance staff and what many undergraduate accounting students learn in school.
"Most undergraduate accounting majors are trained or educated to be financial accountants – doing audits, attestation, and compliance", Thomson told AccountingWEB this past June. "Yet, if they go to work at a company, in addition to the financial accounting work, they're also going to have to do performance management, budgets, forecasts, work with IT on enterprise resource planning, and be involved in strategic discussions."
Over several decades, the IMA has addressed the talent gap in accounting. In 1986, it made contributions to the American Accounting Association (AAA) Bedford Report Future Accounting Education: Preparing for the Expanding Profession, which examined accounting education and the gap between what college students learn in the classroom and professional skills needed in the workplace.
Most recently, the IMA/AAA Management Accounting Section (MAS) Curriculum Task Force presented three recommendations for an integrated accounting educational framework this past January. The recommendations included the following:
- Accounting education should be reoriented to include a greater focus on a curriculum oriented toward long-term career demands.
- The knowledge, skills, and abilities of an accounting education should emerge as integrated competencies – integrated within and between each other.
- Accounting curricula should embrace how accountants today add organizational value in a variety of organizational settings, including content on strategy formulation and analysis, planning, and execution.
"Accounting education needs to focus on students' long-term career needs, and not just prepare students for their first job. The profession is changing, and education should integrate the variety of competencies needed to add organizational value", Raef Lawson, PhD, CMA, CPA, IMA vice president of research and professor-in-residence, who also serves as the task force chair, said in a written statement. "I invite the entire accounting community to collaborate to share practical solutions."