A new way to build talent pools: Apprentices
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A new way to build talent pools: Apprentices

6 months ago · 3 min read · AICPA Insights Blog

A simple mindset shift from buying talent to building talent could solve some of the hiring challenges felt by accounting and finance departments.

Think of minor league baseball: Teams are fielded with young and talented players who are committed to developing their craft and will hopefully go on to be successful at a high level.

The Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners acts much the same way. The newly launched apprenticeship program provides individuals with on-the-job training, mentorship, leads to the Chartered Global Management Accountant® designation and helps build well-rounded firms.

The apprenticeship program, explains Scott Kellam, senior manager, CGMA Learner Success — Americas at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (Association), helps develop a firm’s minor league “… where you’re developing employees from the inside. You’re creating a strong bench that provides for the rest of the organization from a talent perspective. You find the driven candidates early.”

A dwindling talent pool

Talent pools are dwindling in part due to the Great Resignation and employees being more mindful about where they want to work and what they want in an employer. The finance profession also has stringent skill-set requirements that can create hiring barriers.

Competition to find, hire and retain skilled employees is fierce, and causes hiring departments to take a more strategic and sustainable approach says Barry Payne, Director of External Relations, Management Accounting at the Association. Continually buying talent is not maintainable in this hiring climate.

Implementation of an apprenticeship program is not intended to completely replace an organization’s traditional hiring process, nor will it fully solve hiring challenges. It will, however, build upon up-and-coming talent, improve retention rates and help diversify a firm.

Many large organizations, states Payne, already implement a finance leadership development program (FLDP), which helps cultivate future finance leaders. Payne sees the apprenticeship as a great complement to these preexisting programs. “I think [the apprenticeship] can help strengthen those types of programs through the mentorship component, more structured on-the-job trainings and, more importantly, the opportunity to complete the CGMA Finance Leadership Program (FLP), which leads to the world-renowned CGMA® designation.”

Used in parallel to FLDPs, the apprenticeship program can also help cultivate other talent pools. For smaller organizations without FLDPs, the Association’s apprenticeship program is a great entry point to leadership and training programs. ”We have also spoken to many organizations who are thinking very broadly at this apprenticeship for a range of talent pools outside of these formal programs and where accounting and finance teams need to pay more attention in building a talent base,” says Payne. “Whilst you’ll still think about hiring your experienced hires, you’ll have a more mindful approach looking at different talent pools and this is what the idea of the apprenticeship opens up.”

The T-shaped model

The apprenticeship program is built around the letter T. On the vertical are deeply rooted accounting and finance skills based on technical and functional knowledge and expertise. Horizontally above, are a wider range of skill sets revolving around business, people, leadership and digital skills. These enable a professional to take their deep expertise and provide great value to their firm. “This creates a more well-rounded accounting and finance professional,” says Payne.

“This is what we call the T-shaped professional,” explains Payne. “It’s about having deep technical accounting and industry knowledge with a set of horizontal, boundary-crossing skills on top.”

With the T-shaped model applied to the Association’s apprenticeship program, hiring challenges and skills gaps are being directly addressed and closed. And the apprentice greatly benefits from the thorough training and mentorship. “It provides a pretty unbeatable package of support,” adds Payne.

And because apprentices feel invested in, they are more likely to stay at the organization.

Hit the ground running

Apprenticeships prioritize education and are great stepping-stones for those looking for a new profession, and they could have an impact within months of implementation.

As apprentices complete the FLP, they are learning while completing the job at hand. But, more than that, their newfound relevant skills and abilities help them hit the ground running, says Kellam. They can apply their knowledge right away, helping to create a self-starting workforce.

“There’s no waiting period as to how quickly someone could contribute to an organization,” says Kellam, as skills can be immediately applied. “Provide a work culture with career opportunities and you’ll find yourself hiring within your local communities where people want to stay and grow.”

With implementation of the AICPA® Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners, you can create your minor league team and cultivate empowered future finance professionals. Contact apprenticeshipsUS@aicpa-cima.com to get your questions answered.

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