Like many CFOs, Paul Young, CPA, CGMA prefers to fill senior positions with people already with the company for many reasons.
“It’s very difficult to hire outside staff right now,” said Young, Liberty Bank’s senior executive vice president and CFO. “Accounting and finance positions often take six to nine months to fill, command a high premium, and many of the candidates still don’t have all the skills we look for in a new hire.”
These obstacles eased somewhat when Young discovered the AICPA’s groundbreaking Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners program.
“Attracting new, diverse talent and improving the skills of existing teammates are major challenges. When I found out about the training program, I said, ‘This is perfect for helping my team develop.’”
Young’s “Great Eight” – eight Liberty employees – have now been busy for a few weeks testing the program, the first of its kind for the accounting and finance industry.
On Monday, during National Apprenticeship Week in Chicago, the AICPA and the US Department of Labor (DOL) announced the signing of the first three companies to the program: Liberty, Aon and HP.
Liberty enrolled the program’s first eight trainees last month. Aon will follow later this month with 15 trainees and HP will hire 10 trainees in March.
“What’s exciting about this is that this program responds to market trends and, importantly, begins to solve the biggest problem facing these finance and accounting teams — attracting skilled, skilled, and diverse talent.” said Tom Hood, CPA/CITP, CGMA, Executive Vice President – Business Engagement & Growth at the AICPA. “If we can help our business and industry members solve their biggest problem, then that’s our business. We want to help solve these problems.
“This is the beginning of opening up a new path.”
Hood and Joanne Fiore, Vice President – Pipeline and Apprenticeships, CGMA Americas at the AICPA, have been working towards this day of recognition, but it is only the first chapter for a program that pinpoints talent-related challenges companies face.
While the “Great Eight” at Liberty are current employees who receive important training through the program, this is just one way the Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners program can help.
Organizations implementing the program can also train trainees who are not currently employed by their company, including recent graduates from either two- or four-year colleges. And, Fiore said, the AICPA is currently working with universities to create a path for current students to continue attending school while earning credits through the program.
The program builds on the rigorous global CGMA Finance Leadership Program. Apprentices who complete the program, which typically lasts 18 to 24 months, are certified by the DOL as Finance Business Partners and earn the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation.
“Employers are responding very well to it because it combines this really established approach – the apprenticeship – with this globally recognized learning program,” Fiore said. “And it’s marrying her at a time when there’s so much going on with the economy and what’s going on with the profession.”
A lot of what goes on in the job isn’t job specific, but the challenge is distinct.
A recent Deloitte survey found that nearly 80% of finance and accounting hiring managers believe they will struggle to attract and retain enough talent over the next year. This was borne out during a recent AICPA Council panel discussion on the Future of Finance attended by Hood and Young, where participants cited “finding and retaining talent” as their company’s top priority.
“College enrollments are declining and our Future of Finance group has said talent is our main concern. It’s been like this for more than a year,” Hood said. “Some of them said, ‘We would give our right arm if we could get a pipeline of different talents.’
“I think this was driven by three things. It was fueled by a desperate need for more talent. Second, companies would like to have diverse talent as part of the mix. And then the third trend, which makes it even more relevant, is the need for new skills. The pandemic has required the finance function to change and adapt, and in doing so we found that many of the employees deep within the finance departments did not have the right skills to keep up with the changes and digital transformation in the marketplace.”
Fiore added, “While all of this was going on in the accounting profession – the need for talent, diversity and new skills – what’s happening in the American economy prepared us for success with education. What is commonly referred to as ‘qualified by alternative routes’, STAR, the concept that one can have a career without a four-year degree, is a movement in the United States that has embraced apprenticeships.
“As fewer and fewer people go to college, there needs to be more alternative pathways. It’s the perfect storm for programs like ours to get stronger.”
Launched by the AICPA in November 2021, the program had previously been approved by the DOL. Then, in September, the program received a grant from the Maryland Department of Labor.
AICPA and CFOs like Young hope this is just the beginning.
“It’s a top-notch learning platform, and I’m already hearing great feedback on how trainees are applying what they’ve learned in their current jobs,” said Young. “The trainees have entered at all different levels – the operational level, the managerial level and the strategic level – and because we have staff at each level, they are able to share their knowledge and have developed their own cohort sessions. We offer mentoring, which is vital. I am a mentor for one of the groups and we have had great support from AICPA.
“When our trainees complete the program, they can become Chartered Global Management Accountants, which is accreditation for increasing recognition in accounting and finance. It’s a designation they aspire to and it gives them a lot of momentum.”
what others say
- Marty Walsh, US Secretary of Labor: “The Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners program will help ensure diverse, skilled teams are ready to fill finance jobs now and in the future. Registered Apprenticeship is a proven model and a sound investment for employers looking to develop a talented and diverse workforce. Today’s signing reflects the department’s continued commitment to expanding registered apprenticeship programs in high-growth and emerging industries.”
- Mike Neller, Global Controller at Aon: “Our employees are the heartbeat of our company. We are committed to creating a culture of opportunity for our colleagues that makes them feel more relevant, connected and valued so they can reach their full professional potential. We are excited to make this program available to our finance peers to help them gain essential skills, earn their CGMA designation and find a pathway for professional training, mentoring and career development.”
- Marie Myers, CFO at HP: “Diversity is a business imperative; when we attract and nurture people from diverse backgrounds and increase their representation in the workplace, we strengthen a company’s business objectives. We look forward to being part of this program of Registered Finance Business Partner Education as an offering in our Finance Cohort Program, which will start hiring graduates from HBCUs in 2023 [historically Black colleges and universities] to nurture more diverse and equal talent within our team.”
— To comment on this article or suggest an idea for another article, contact Bryan Strickland at [email protected].