For self-proclaimed accounting product “hype girl” and consultant Heath Smith, there are some fundamental missing pieces to accounting education in Australia.
First, Ms Smith believes the automation argument and debate isn’t being framed correctly. Fear about “the robots taking over” remains prevalent among prospective accountants, rather than a focus on, and conversation about, the opportunities of technology and artificial intelligence.
“Students are reading all the hype about AI, and they’re worried their jobs are going to be taken over,” she said.
“What it actually means is their jobs are about to get a lot more interesting!”
Second, Ms Smith believes accounting education needs to be realigned to focus on technology in a more practical sense. At the moment, outdated systems and platforms are being used and taught at a tertiary level — meaning there’s a significant learning curve for accountants when they first enter the workforce.
For Prime Partners director James Carey, the work graduates are doing is vastly different to a generation ago — which needs to be reflected at a tertiary level.
Further, a focus on emotional intelligence and relationship building should be ramped up in accounting degrees, Mr Carey said.
“What we need, and why accountants will still be in business despite automation, is strong relationships. Those business owners want to speak to someone they can trust and go to for advice,” he said.
“I suspect the accounting graduates of the future will excel if they have good relationship skills, they are able to speak clearly to clients, they can explain complex concepts in a concise way… and they are fulfilling that trusted adviser role.”
These comments from both Ms Smith and Mr Carey echo the lobbying from universities, professional bodies and employers alike. You can read more about the background to this debate here.