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Sky-high demand for staff ‘the number one problem’

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The upcoming job summit needs to address a shortfall of accountants running into thousands a year, says CPA Australia.

By Philip King 10 minute read

Sky-high demand for staff is the number one concern of public practitioners and the jobs summit next month is a “once in a generation opportunity to identify real solutions”, CPA Australia said.

ABS data showing the unemployment rate fell to 3.4 per cent last month simply reinforced the fact that “thousands” of accountants were needed to make up the shortfall, CPA Australia general manager media and content Dr Jane Rennie said.

“Today’s labour force figures reveal the lowest jobless rate in almost 50 years,” she said. “There are now fewer unemployed workers than there are job vacancies in Australia. Many businesses simply cannot fill vacant roles. This is a real concern for productivity and the national economy.”

The July result arrived months ahead of RBA expectations that 3.4 per cent would be the jobless rate reached by the end of the year.

Dr Rennie said the fact it was still falling was a significant challenge for businesses, with accountancy among the worst hit.

“There is sky-high demand for accountants in Australia,” she said. “Vacant job listings for accounting professionals are up 34 per cent year-on-year. Thousands more accountants are needed each year to make up the current shortfall.”

The Jobs and Skills Summit next month, which will be attended by fellow professional body CA ANZ, was an unrivalled chance to tackle the problem, she said.

“The jobs summit is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to identify real solutions to the skills shortage. We’re hoping to see a plan that both upskills local workers and attracts talent to Australia.”

Director of Melbourne-based Future Advisory, Jason Robinson, said difficulty recruiting staff was unquestionnably the number one issue for accountants with vacancies across the board for admin, bookkeeping and accounting.

He said there were plenty of applications but a mismatch with the roles required.

“I thought getting grads coming through the ranks was going to be an issue with the attraction of the accounting industry, but there’s quite a few coming through and they’re eager, they’re hungry to get into practice and start their careers,” he said on a recent CPA Australia podcast.

“The ones that we’re really seeing as the issue … is the intermediates and seniors.

“With the great resignation, everyone was expecting a whole lot of people to jump ship and move firms. But it just doesnt seem to be like that at the moment. In our experience, the intermediates and seniors, theres a huge shortage.”

Emerging from the pandemic had resulted in a lot of recovery work, cash flow forecasts and helping businesses survive the challenging economic conditions, he said.

“So you generally need those more experienced team members who are going to be comfortable having those conversations. That’s definitely where the biggest shortage is in that intermediate to senior area,” he said.

His mid-sized firm, with a team of 29, had witnessed staff being lured away by bigger companies with deeper pockets and was thinking hard about ways to retain employees.

“We’re just like much smaller firms – we’ve lost team members to bigger firms with bigger pay checks,” he said. “We need to go beyond just what we can offer in a paycheck and need to look at what are those extra work perks that we have.

“It’s definitely very, very tough for practitioners to stack up against some of the other firms that have deeper pockets.

“I can’t see it becoming immediately resolved. We’re at an all time low for unemployment and that just means there isn’t that volume of people that are looking for new jobs and going to jump into a career in public practice.”

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Philip King

Philip King

AUTHOR

Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.

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