Partnership sees skills boosted
Metrobus sets the wheels in motion to improve the qualifications of its finance and accounting employees.
Joburg’s bus company Metrobus, has teamed up with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants SA (ACCA SA) to develop the skills of its finance and accounting support staff.This move means that Metrobus staff will be able to meet the National Treasury qualification requirements. It also expected to increase the efficiency of senior managers and the organisation.
"Many organisations focus on senior management position," says Metrobus chief financial officer Lawrence Maqekoane."However, even if senior managers have the right skills and the right qualifications, if your accounting support staff do not have the requisite skills, you will struggle because everything is delegated to you."
"There is also the issue that a large number of Metrobus employees have been in the company’s employ for a number of years, but have not had the opportunity to obtain formal qualifications.
"In the past, we always sent our employees on short courses; these were expensive and did not meet our needs," says Maqekoane."The net result was that our managers were working long hours because their support staff did not have the necessary skills."While some companies may have called in consultants, we would far rather have our own staff working on the figures throughout the year."We also recognise that once they have undergone training, they will have a far better understanding of business issues."
Having identified a skills gap among finance and accounting support staff, and taking into consideration that National Treasury requires people working in finance to have certain minimum qualifications by the end of December next year, Metrobus approached several professional accounting bodies to find a long-term solution. "The professional association route is very attractive sinceour employees already have work experience," Maqekoane explains.
"A qualification such as CAT (Certified Accounting Technician is a NQF Level 6 qualification, equivalent to a degree."If you have been working for many years and do not have any formal qualifications within 18 months you could obtain the equivalent of a degree, and three years thereafter, you could qualify as a chartered accountant.
"So, within five years, one could be transformed from an individual who is not matriculated, to a world class professional accountant."Metrobus employees are free to study through any professional accounting body of their choice. However, the 17 employees selected to further their qualifications have chosen to study through ACCA.
Since many of them have bot opened a book to study in years, Metrobus kick-started the learning process by getting training provider Sanamik to implement a three-month bridging course.This bridging course provides support in financial literacy, numeracy and workplace skills. "They began realising they have what is takes to succeed."Maqekoane points out that the employees who completed the bridging course have become far better informed and more aware of economic issues and business practices. "They now monitor exchange rates; they know why the price of diesel is going up and whether we are going to make a profit," he says.
And the quest for learning has proved contagious – Metrobus employees working outside finance have asked for the opportunity to complete the bridging course. As a result, Metrobus is looking at partnering with other professional associations that cater for individuals in areas other than accounting and finance.
The 17 Metrobus employees on the ACCA Programme will complete the ACCA Foundations in Accounting suite of qualifications. "Devised as a learning journey, candidates complete the introductory certificate in finance and management accounting, the intermediate certificate in financial and management accounting, the diploma in accounting and business, and an additional two papers to complete the CAT qualification," Kater says.
"Candidates are supported and mentored throughout the process." Metrobus encourages its employees to continue studying once they have completed their CAT qualification – the company hopes that some will complete the ACCA professional qualification and eventually qualify as professional accountants. Metrobus will award prizes to the top candidates every six months, once exam results have been released. In addition, the candidate who obtains the highest marks overall will be seconded to a blue chip company for a period.
The seconded person will return to Metrobus, and implement some of the best practices that they have learnt. "Within a short time, we have seen the benefit of being associated with ACCA," says Maqekoane."In the past, we used to struggle to get good CV’s; now people send CV’s even when there are no vacancies. They have heard about our training programme and want to come and work for us."