Industry is calling for ‘real-world qualified’ accounting graduates

| February 19, 2013 | 0 Comments

BirkbeckWork experience is becoming more and more important when searching for a job, according to the latest study about trends in graduate recruitment.

The Graduate Market in 2013 report shows that employers are offering a record number of paid work experience places for students and recent graduates this year and those without any work experience are unlikely to secure a job.

The study, carried out by High Fliers Research and published on 14 January, emphasises the importance of adding skills and experience from the workplace to academic qualifications in a competitive jobs market.
More than half of employers surveyed are providing industrial placements for undergraduates (typically for 6-12 months) and half have paid vacation internships lasting more than three weeks. Above all, over half the recruiters questioned warned that graduates without work experience are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a graduate job.

The report shows that employers in accounting, professional services and investment banking made the biggest cuts in vacancies last year as they reduced their graduate intake by more than 1,200 places compared to their original recruitment targets. On the other hand, two of the three largest recruiters of graduates in 2013 are from the sector. This year, Teach First is expected to offer 1,260 jobs, Deloitte 1,200 and PwC 1,200.
Employers, training organisations and universities are responding to this increased demand for more ‘real-world qualified’ accounting graduates, and Birkbeck, University of London, is certainly playing its part.

At Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics (BEI) , we are embracing innovation and a practical approach to working with businesses, both to help satisfy the demand for skills from employers and also to boost the employability of our students. We are delighted to be able to offer such innovative opportunities to combine work and part-time evening study.

In 2011 we were approached by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) to see if there was any appetite to develop a joint degree programme that would enable employees of smaller businesses to get degree qualifications without sacrificing too much time or money. Our joint efforts led to the BSc Applied Accounting and Business degree launched in September 2012.

As part of the novel scheme, trainee accountants can complement their ICAEW Chartered Accountancy qualification with a prestigious University of London degree from Birkbeck – London’s only specialist provider of evening higher education. The degree offers broad business and management ‘soft’ skills – including problem-solving and business communication – to complement core, functional, ‘hard’ accounting skills.

The degree is distinctive as it offers trainee accountants the opportunity to combine work and part-time study, enabling them to gain qualifications at a substantially lower cost and much sooner than if they first study for a degree and then complete a work-based Chartered Accounting (ACA) qualification. Designed for maximum flexibility, the degree incorporates 12 ACA certificate and professional level modules accounting for 180 credits, with the remaining 180 credits coming from Birkbeck. The academic part of the course is also open to ACA-qualified accountants without university qualifications.

Having embarked on the degree in October 2012, Birkbeck student and Ernst & Young trainee Sachin Lakhenpaul, 19, says: “This type of degree course promises vocational and academic experience, which is unique. There are also plenty of networking opportunities, studying alongside other working professionals. The combination of skills I’m gaining should help me stand out from the crowd and improve my chances of having a successful career in finance.”

Mark Protherough, Executive Director, Learning and Professional Development at ICAEW, added: “This programme will help ensure talented individuals from all backgrounds have a cost-effective route into the profession. It will also ensure that the employers have access to a wide talent pool, which is ‘work-ready’. The integration of academic, professional and practical training with hands on experience in the office will also help to provide a solid return on any employer’s investment.”

Nearly 190 years after its creation, Birkbeck – a world-class research and teaching institution – remains true to its mission to educate working people in London by providing them with the chance to fit their studies around their busy lives. The saying of our founder George Birkbeck is as relevant today as it was in 1823: “Now is the time for the universal benefits of the blessings of knowledge.”

By Dr Linda Trenberth, Deputy Dean of the School of Business, Economics and Informatics at Birkbeck, University of London

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