Much more than a peer who gives office tours or answers the occasional question, mentors are guides and instructors who help new talent get acquainted with their job responsibilities and thrive in their role — and mentorships are a key element to the AICPA® Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners.
In this mutually beneficial partnership, mentors guide finance apprentices who are simultaneously acting on financial skills they learn. While these apprentices gain valuable full-time work experience, they are enrolled in the CGMA® Finance Leadership Program — a guided, digital learning and assessment route that leads to the Chartered Global Management Accountant® (CGMA) designation.
“[The mentor is] the person who is sharing that organizational knowledge openly, and with the best interest of that apprentice in mind. You want to make sure that the apprentice is getting all the support necessary,” said Steve Lutton, COO of the Institute for American Apprenticeships, which consulted in the creation of the AICPA apprenticeship program. “At every moment, there is an opportunity to help that apprentice get to that next step.”
Structured on-the-job training is the heart of any apprenticeship program.
The apprenticeship includes a framework of competencies for each apprentice to learn and master — digital finance, project management, financial reporting, risk management and more. With the framework, the apprentice can see how their CGMA skills directly translate into their accounting and finance firms.
“The apprentice has to understand what they have to accomplish,” said Matt McKenney, CEO of the Institute for American Apprenticeships, which also manages AICPA’s concierge service for employers that register apprentices. “Mentors get to leverage that framework as a way to guide an apprentice.”
“When you have something that defines what the endpoint is, both parties — the apprentice and the mentor — know where they are headed. There is always a transparent clear direction by everybody,” added Lutton.
Customizable apprenticeship program
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the implementation of the Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners program — and that’s intentional. Before staffing apprentices, employers adapt the apprenticeship experience, framework and other components to their firm’s specific needs based on the guidelines provided. Throughout the apprenticeship, a mentor and an apprentice’s direct leader collaborate, guaranteeing the program criteria are being met.
“The AICPA provides the framework, but the employer has to apply that framework to their organization. There has to be some effort made that ensures outcomes and milestones throughout the apprenticeship program align with experiences. That gets designed into the program upfront,” said McKenney. Periodic performance meetings confirm everyone is on track.
With a tailored framework, employers can determine the mentorship format. It could be the traditional one-on-one partnership or another format such as a peer learning group. Apprentices could also change mentors at certain points — based upon where they work in the finance function — while still relying on the initial framework.
“If the mentor and the apprentice get into a situation that they can’t solve, ideally the mentor has a go-to person whom they can pull in,” said McKenney. “Perfection is not the goal — the mentor should not be afraid to say, ‘I don’t have the answer but let’s go find it.’”
When initially assigning an apprentice to a mentor, it may be best if the mentor is not their direct manager. This creates a safer and more nurturing relationship for all parties.
Mentors become strong leaders
Think of mentorship as a pipeline, and it’s not just apprentices who benefit from these relationships. Working directly with the apprentice, the mentor will learn many transferable leadership skills, including communication, advocacy, project management, conflict resolution and coaching.
This widens the pool of future, in-house candidates for leadership roles.
“The mentor, in many ways, becomes an apprentice to the leader and is learning leadership skills as they are mentoring,” said Lutton. “They’re working with the leader to master a different set of skills and they’re going to be able to tap into when they perhaps move up or move on in the organization.”
Having experienced these skills firsthand through apprenticeships, graduated apprentices can become future mentors and pay it forward. “The best mentor is someone who has been an apprentice themselves,” McKenney said.
Mentoring bolsters business operations
As accounting and finance teams look to recruit new talent, widen candidate pools, upskill current employees, develop leadership talent and perform other duties critical to their future, an apprenticeship program is a valuable tool to help navigate the way.
The apprenticeship program centralizes and formalizes the work that is already being done.
The addition of an apprenticeship complements a firm’s current talent recruitment and training efforts. “An apprenticeship framework, on-the-job training and mentoring enable your organization to open the aperture and consider a wider talent pool,” said McKenney.
Are you interested in expanding recruitment and learning opportunities within your finance departments? Contact us to learn more about the AICPA Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners.