As you might expect, I’ve spent much of my first two months as your CEO in meetings with members and NJCPA leaders learning more about what keeps CPAs up at night. Unsurprisingly, the talent pipeline shortage is the accounting profession’s single-most important issue.
Organizations from across the accounting spectrum, from the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) and the AICPA to universities and state CPA societies, are taking a hard look at the challenges the profession is experiencing in attracting top talent, particularly underrepresented talent. We know that the profession has a diversity problem, according to the research presented by these and other organizations. By continuing to delve into solutions to attract and retain diverse talent, we can address some aspects of the pipeline issues.
According to a recent CAQ report, which included responses from 1,800+ students, the next generation of talent sees the following hurdles/misconceptions:
- They have a lack of interest or passion for the major (driven in part by negative experiences with introductory accounting classes) and a perception that they’re not good enough at math to become an accountant.
- There are higher starting salaries in other majors, and they don’t want to pursue the 150 academic credit hours required for CPA licensure. For Black and Hispanic business-related majors, the 150-credit hour requirement was the biggest reason for not choosing accounting.
- A variety of structural supports are correlated with plans to pursue the license, including encouragement of a professor/mentor and whether a student’s college offered a 150-credit hour program (i.e., an accelerated undergraduate program covering 150 credit hours or a five-year master’s in accounting program). Unfortunately, Black and Hispanic majors and graduates reported less access to such structural supports.
The NJCPA has prioritized the pipeline challenges by developing a Pipeline Task Force, which is made up of a diverse set of professionals.
The task force is chaired by Zack Cohen, CPA, senior manager at CFGI, and includes many of the Society’s emerging leaders. The group has been entrusted with developing a set of actionable and measurable recommendations that will identify areas that need improvement; practices and programs that the NJCPA should launch, continue or ramp up; where to direct resources; and where further research is needed. It will deliver a first set of recommendations to the Strategic Planning Committee in the fall and to the Board of Trustees in December.
We welcome your feedback and encourage you to share your stories and get involved.