Last week, the AICPA released a revised pipeline acceleration plan, the goal of which is to get more young people into accounting to save the profession from extinction. To save you a click, I’m putting it here.
At its spring meeting in Washington this week, the AICPA’s governing body (“Council”) approved this plan. Yay. Cue measured fanfare.
The resolution acknowledges the challenges facing the talent pipeline and the need for a “thoughtful strategic process” in the search for solutions while reiterating the Council’s commitment to preserving the mobility of CPA licensees. [AICPA CEO—Public Accounting Susan] Coffey said the state CPA societies’ role in helping address the pipeline is essential.
The resolution reads in part: “This collaborative process, convened by and through the AICPA, should result in a continuous research-driven national pipeline strategy that, among other things, addresses the image of the profession in the eyes of students as well as educational and experience requirements, and outlines short and long-term initiatives and actions that result in measurable outcomes to address the profession’s ongoing and evolving human capital needs and priorities.”
As you can see from the above graphic, this plan includes many things that would be wholly unnecessary were starting salaries at public accounting firms able to compete with the industries currently jacking talent from the profession at the college level. Going into high schools to talk about the opportunities in accounting is great, people should be doing that. Extending the time a person has to pass all four parts of the CPA exam is great, too. As are alternate pathways to licensure but not everyone agrees on that one. All of this is pointless if the money isn’t there.
The original pipeline acceleration plan released earlier this year was just eight items, seen here in this AICPA Town Hall Series video and believe it or not, it was somehow more useless than the 50% larger 12-point plan.
On the Integrated Education and Experience Program, the South Carolina Association of CPAs Board of Directors said they “have no confidence in this proposed solution” in this January 24 letter to the AICPA and NASBA:
While this initiative could ultimately lower the candidate cost for the remaining 30 hours, we feel strongly that it will not adequately address pipeline compression. We do not believe this approach removes barriers to entry, but instead places additional strain on those seeking to join the profession. As such, we have no confidence in this proposed solution.
Alright, what else do they have?
The revised plan has the Experience, Learn & Earn program which Director of the School of Accountancy at University of Denver Sharon Lassar, PhD, CPA has written about here and here. Here’s an excerpt from her guest post “Is It Ethical to Endorse an Educational Path That Is Susceptible to Cheating?”:
The AICPA should disclose exactly what will be taught in the ELE program. If it moves forward, it should disclose the characteristics of the students enrolled; the courses selected, attempted, and completed with grade earned; the parts of the CPA exam attempted and those passed by the candidates before they started the ELE program; the parts scheduled, attempted, and passed while enrolled; and, the time to complete this pathway to licensure. If this model is one that the profession uses to justify the continuation of the 150-hour rule, it should also then show the progression of these candidates through their careers. Each year’s annual salary and rank should be disclosed. Let’s get some real data that is open for academics to analyze.
I’ll leave those high level discussions to people smarter than anyone here but I do happen to be an expert in getting paid diddly squat so believe me when I say if you pay them, they will come.
Supposedly salaries fall under item 2 of the revised plan: “Addressing firm culture and business model challenges.” In AICPA language:
In collaboration with stakeholders, the AICPA has identified initiatives that address the following key areas:
- Awareness: Increasing awareness about the accounting profession and promoting the benefits of a career in accounting
- Improved perceptions: Dispelling outdated perceptions and leveraging updated, positive messaging that can help the profession resonate with today’s students
- Training and education: Providing high-quality accounting education and training opportunities
- Firm culture and business models: Equipping firms with the tools to offer competitive salaries and benefits, as well as career advancement opportunities and compelling work
Firms have the tools. They just don’t want to use them.
Why not save everyone a lot of time and address THE #1 cause? They could send a bunch of AICPA goons to shake down firm leaders and tell them it’s time to pay up. Please record it and put it on YouTube.
Pay better salaries, attract more students, hire more graduates, then we can get to work on the second biggest issue scaring young people away from the profession: the hours. It won’t totally fix the problem but it’ll at least push the needle and get us through this rough spot before automation saves the day and puts everyone out of a job like they’ve been threatening it will for a decade now. Maybe that’s why firms are putting so much money into technology investments and AI? Whatever, just don’t complain that you can’t find talent in the meantime.
I’m aware there are problems other than pay plaguing the profession but all of this crap is like a municipality focusing on patching potholes while half the city is in flames. PUT OUT THE FIRE FIRST.