By Mandi Olivier, Senior Executive for Professional Development, SAICA
The good news is that as a first year and academic trainee you won’t experience the same pressure around deadline delivery as your counterparts in firms. That said, if you have any extra time, you will be expected to put it to good use. If you’re considering furthering your academic qualifications, now is a good time to start because once you’re working full time it’s much harder to make time for further studying.
Academic trainees have the opportunity to put what they have learnt in a theoretical environment into practice. Participating in the development of students allows them to develop various competencies, which will be assessed throughout the year.
Assessments are completed mid-year, as well as at the end of the year. The generic evaluation report which is used for academic trainees only covers five or six specific areas, which is why the Technical Skills Report (TSR) and Persuasive Skills Report (PSR) will be adapted for academic trainees to evaluate all competencies during 2017. SAICA will be asking a variety of stakeholders to provide input into the redesign of these reports. Current reports are sent to your training office so that they’re able to evaluate the extent of competence achieved when you enter the firm portion of your training contact in second year.
There are certain tasks that academic trainees are expected to perform during their year in the academic trainee programme. These include lecturing, running tutorials, setting and marking assessments as well as the preparation of student material. Undertaking research is also a formal requirement although the form of that research is not detailed. I believe there are two types of research: that which is purely theoretical and often of little value to the accounting profession – and applied research - that which is more relevant to the profession. While changes in medicine, for example, are driven by academia; changes to the accounting profession are generally driven by industry bodies or firms themselves. We need to address that and ensure that accounting academics also provide input to the profession in a relevant manner.
I therefore encourage academic trainees to invest time doing research during their academic trainee year. This research needn’t be technical in nature. Consider for instance, accounting education research which can provide useful insights into developing future CAs. The key reason for including research as a requirement is to develop an understanding of research methodology which can be applied in undertaking future projects in practice.
Balance is an important concept to remember during your academic traineeship and ideally you need to get a good balance of experience in all areas of your traineeship. For example, if you’re spending 80 percent of your time doing marking and you’re not learning anything else, this is something you would need to take up with your supervisor.
Learn to evaluate yourself – this is a skill that you will refine over time. Evaluation is an important part of the development process during your academic training contract. Ideally you should be asking for feedback throughout your professional career, as this will ensure you never stop growing and developing your professional competence. Ongoing evaluation will assist you to find the gaps in your progress and address them.
Being proactive is key during your trainee contract. Go out and ask your supervisors what they expect from you and go the extra mile. If you have not yet been approached by a firm, initiate contact – they’ll be so impressed that you did.
Ultimately, this year is what you make of it, and how much you get out of it is up to you.
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