Skills shortage grim in finance sector
The Association of Certified Chartered Accountants South Africa (ACCA SA) recently introduced the new Head of ACCA SA, Nadine Kater to ACCA members, training providers and ACCA stakeholders at a special function at the Hyatt in Rosebank, Johannesburg.
The function provided Kater with an opportunity to share ACCA SA’s strategy. Kater said the raft of legislation, which has been implemented viaSetas, has already set the scene for skills development at a macro level. "Now the challenge is to see professional qualifications play a role in skills development at a micro-level," Kater reminded.
Shortages of accounting and finance skills, currently estimated at around 22 000, are impacting very negatively on business in general, and on service-delivery within the public sector: "Business, government, and civil society need accounting skills. All projects need strong financial management skills."
Kater said a number of factors are constraining an increase in thesupply of accounting professionals in South Africa: "The basic education system is not producing young South Africans, who meet the admission criteria for universities and universities of technology. Where young South Africans meet these criteria, places are limited. It is important to recognise too that many aspiring accountants cannot afford to study full-time for 6-7 years via a traditional academic route."
The real challenge for stakeholders in the accounting sector was to consider alternative approaches to address skills shortages. "The size of the market, coupled with the need for a range of financial and accounting specialisation means there is ample scope for the entire spectrum of accounting and finance-related professional bodies in the South African market," Kater emphasised.
According to Kater,ACCA’s open-access business model, which only requires that candidates are sixteen years of age, numerate and literate, is very well-suited to a developing country such as South Africa, where many employees may have years of work experience, but many not have had the opportunity to finish their schooling.
"There is considerable scope to market the Foundations of Accounting (FIA) suite of qualifications to both the public and private sector as a means to increase skills incrementally within organisations and as a means to empower experienced employees through the recognition of prior learning (RPL).
The ACCA suite of qualifications could also assist organisations and government to meet government’s legislated requirements in terms of Employment Equity, Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) scorecards and the need to fast track transformation within the world of work," she explained.
While there are some challenges around working with universities in South Africa, ACCA SA has made important inroads: "ACCA SA has accredited a number of universities in South Africa. WITS Plus, the division within the university, which offers evening and part-time studies, offers the ACCA Professional Qualification. The opportunity to pursue an internationally recognised professional accounting qualification through their alma mater is very appealing to accounting graduates and a logical step for those wanting to become professional accountants."
A number of other developments, including NSDS III, with its emphasis on ensuring that skills development initiatives are linked to career paths and to career development, as well as the emphasis on Professional, Vocational, Technical and Academic (PIVOTAL) Programmes, augured well for ACCA SA’s growth. "In addition, the introduction of the New Companies Act is also expected to make the ACCA Professional qualification a more attractive option in South Africa," Kater observed.
Kater said ACCA would like to partner with all relevant stakeholders: "I invite ACCA stakeholders to share in the process of finding solutions, not only for our own organisations but for the greater desire to meet governments call for skills development and job creation."