We’re living in a time of rapid change – a fact that is particularly noticeable in the accounting profession. However, with change comes both challenges and opportunities. As students and trainees, you are the profession’s future leaders and you have a critical role to play to ensure that CAs (SA) remain relevant. It will be up to you to find solutions to these challenges and to shape the profession into one you can be proud to be part of.
Some of these challenges include the technological revolution taking place that will impact everything that we do - from the way we live and work to the way we interact with each other. This technological revolution is known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and is described by the World Economic Forum as:
“The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices - with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge - are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage and quantum computing.”
While many articles on this topic refer to accountants’ jobs being taken over by robots, there is still a critical role for CAs (SA) to play by creating value for the businesses in which they work. There is no doubt that while we have no way of knowing how this will fully impact us as CAs (SA), the rate of change is exponential and cannot be ignored.
This topic was recently discussed at an Academic Trainee workshop, and while there was limited time for an in-depth exploration of how this will impact us in the future, the group came up with some interesting suggestions to ensure that CAs (SA) of the future are more than just bean counters:
ü Incorporating technology into the curriculum and training contract more effectively. “In an ever-changing technological environment, we need to adapt to reflect advances,” the trainees commented. Moving from paper-based audit procedures to a paperless environment is going to need to happen sooner rather than later.
ü Changing the teaching and learning approach to a more interactive one, focusing on the development of skills (such as critical thinking) and life-long learning. Simply learning to pass exams is not effective for the long-term success of the profession. The academic trainees proposed making the curriculum more practical in order to stimulate a love for learning and equip students with the necessary skills to research and learn on their own. Techniques such as an assignment/lecture swop – having to complete the assignment before the lecture on the topic is given to facilitate research and reading – could assist in this area.
ü Increased emphasis on pervasive skills. Greater focus needs to be placed on developing the pervasive skills that CAs (SA) need to be successful, so strategic thinking, important communications skills and problem-solving skills should have more focus in the CA programme.
“The ability to adapt to change will prevent the CA (SA) designation from becoming redundant, so students and trainees need to start learning those skills as early as possible,” the workshop participants concluded.
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