Dr Luckmika Perera, director of the department of accounting at Deakin Business School, said most educational institutions focused on teaching students “specified” skills suited for big firms, instead of “broader” skills geared towards SMEs.
“Most academic bodies focus on students for the big corporates, but we have to recognise it’s not just the big corporates, there are SMEs that also require accountants,” Dr Perera said.
“We need to have a broader picture looking at SMEs, large corporates, charities, not-for-profits, and have a well-rounded program that addresses all these broader needs.”
Dr Perera said there is a different skillset required for graduates to work for SMEs, charities, larger firms and non-for-profit organisations.
“In an SME or charity or not-for profit, there’s a different set of rules, that’s the first point; and secondly an accountant in that role would be doing a far greater deal of work because smaller firms, they can’t afford to have 10 different accountants to do different tasks,” Dr Perera said.
“One person will be doing a broader level of engagement as opposed to a big accounting firm or a big corporate where there will be a specified, defined area of work.”
Dr Perera said students needed to learn the different legislation that applied for SMEs and larger firms.
“Given the job market, students do apply across the board, for SMEs as well as big corporates, it’s just a matter of having that skillset to perform their job better, that’s the only issue or question that I have,” Dr Perera said.
He added that institutions should adopt more “experience for learning” to help produce “well-rounded students who are able to be ‘career chameleons’.”
Dr Perera’s argument is in line with recent concerns that accounting graduates are falling well short of the necessary skills and qualifications to enter the workforce.
“The business market space is about to be flooded with university graduates seeking employment," said founder at Platinum Professional Training Jeff Poe, who deals with accounting graduates on a regular basis.
“Unfortunately trading conditions are still tough for many businesses and employers are seeking something more from potential employees. They are looking for practical experience and the ability to get results fast,” he said.
“While a lot of new graduates have the relevant qualifications, they don't have the practical experience or the life skills to be able to hit the ground running.”