Speaking with Accountants Daily, Cohen & Krass director Anthony Cohen said tertiary educators needed to review the current accounting syllabus to bring graduates up to speed with the business advisory role that accountants play in their business clients’ life.
Mr Cohen, an FCPA, pointed to the launch of the Business Funding Guide, a joint development by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) and Scottish Pacific, as an example of how graduate accountants were not prepared for dealing with simple business issues like funding.
The guide, which is aimed primarily at accountants, bookkeepers, brokers and other financial advisers, was developed because of a knowledge gap identified within the industry.
“One of my grads came up and said, ‘My mind is just blown away. I didn’t know there was stuff like that around’,” Mr Cohen said.
“The problem is we’re the first call in many cases [by] a business in trouble. Perhaps, I can give advice because I’ve got a lot of years of experience, but my graduates don’t have that and often they find themselves frustrated that they are hearing this cry for help but the client has to wait until I am free to talk to them.
“Here they are crying for help and they can’t get an answer straightaway. All accountants should be able to understand how funding impacts on their businesses.
“None of that is being addressed within our tertiary system, certainly not in accounting degrees.”
Mr Cohen believes accounting education should evolve to equip prospective accountants with the knowledge to deal with small business issues including cash flow, debtor days and developing a business plan.
“What happens is that these things are normally talked about in MBAs, and I think it needs to be put into very simple terms in accounting degrees to say these are the things you need to be aware of,” Mr Cohen said.
“I think accounting bodies like CA ANZ, CPA and the IPA need to go out there and talk to the tertiary educators and say the degrees that they are processing need to be reinforced and reviewed and revamped.”
A recent survey found that a growing number of firms are looking for new accountants with industry experience outside of accounting, with close to nine out of 10 believing that the current state of accounting education will not be adequate for the next decade.
The accounting education landscape has attracted a lot of attention over the last few years, with universities conceding that a typical three-year undergraduate program is insufficient in ensuring graduates are job-ready.
Jotham Lian is the news editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.