CalCPA Connecting with Students and Young CPAs

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By Anne Rosivach

For Johanna Sweaney Salt, CPA, the newly elected chair of the California Society of CPAs (CalCPA), reaching out to accounting students, CPA candidates, and new licensees is a major priority. "Ultimately, new licensees are our future, the future of CalCPA, and the profession. With significant numbers of our profession either planning to retire or reduce their workload, members see connecting with younger CPAs as more critical than ever", Sweaney said.

CalCPA, with 41,000 members, is the largest state society of CPAs in the United States. "Our latest figures as of late last month, are that 54 percent of new licensees are members. That is great news", Salt said in a conversation with AccountingWEB. "CalCPA has worked hard to give students and CPA candidates a taste of the tools and opportunities that are part of membership, a sense of the benefits of membership, and what membership can do for an aspiring professional.

"These are great young men and women, and I am really confident about our future."

New Initiatives

In January 2012, CalCPA inaugurated the Campus Ambassadors program, coordinating with twelve California state universities and colleges. Declared accounting, business, economics, or finance majors or minors who intend to pursue a CPA license, apply for the position of student ambassador at their respective universities. The ambassadors have specific assignments, including:

  • Increasing awareness of free CalCPA student membership.
  • Improving visibility of CalCPA on their campuses.
  • Helping CalCPA chapters add connections between members and future CPAs.

"This program has brought fantastic resources to our students", Salt said. "We expect the number of campus ambassadors will more than double this year. We connect with accounting societies on campus, talk about membership, and bring in licensees to address students. We also highlight our scholarship program at high schools and universities. We have given over $2.2 million in scholarships to 1,300 students in the past eight years alone.

"Another new initiative will be CalCPA Connect, a tool that will combine social media functions and integrate our member database. This younger generation is very social. They thrive doing projects as a team, and they will be able to use this tool in so many ways - to form task forces or even study groups for the CPA exam. We expect that having this technology at their fingertips will resonate with our younger members.

"CalCPA Connect will also be a very powerful tool for all of our members. As state and national boundaries are blurring in our profession, it becomes increasingly important that our members find ways to connect. We have to be able to reach out to our peers. Other powerful tools include the various listserves. For example, when I had a client who inherited an oil well in Oklahoma, I had a number of questions regarding oil wells. Someone from Bakersfield, where there are a lot of oil wells, responded to my inquiry."

Support for Students and New Licensees

CalCPA continues to support students and new CPAs by providing free and low cost memberships. An e-membership for high school and college students is free. Membership is also free for accounting educators. A full membership is free for CPA candidates with a degree for the first year and costs just $50 for the next five years. 

The Emerging Leaders Certificate Program is designed for new licensees. The program has two goals: (1) to help the young CPAs to develop solid leadership skills and (2) to enable young CPAs to establish relationships both with their peers and with more experienced professionals. "There has been tremendous feedback", Salt said. "In chapter meetings, they can ask candid questions of their peers." 

Mentoring Works Both Ways

"Going forward, we have to remember that mentoring works both ways. We need to understand how technology works in the lives of our students and CPA candidates, and also in the business lives of our young clients. We have a paperless office, meaning we scan our clients' source documents into our document management system. However, many of our younger clients never touch paper at all. Instead, they upload their data to our secure client portal, and, in turn, we deliver their tax returns, or what have you, electronically. We may have phone contact, but they will often text or e-mail. Technology requires us to change the way we think and do business, and our new members can contribute to that process.

"There is a tremendous willingness among our professionals to share their knowledge and experience. This is such a collaborative profession. Our members are really excited about reaching out to students to promote the profession. They are energized by the connections." 

Johanna Sweaney Salt is a partner in the firm of Gray, Salt and Associates LLC in Claremont, California.

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