I have read with interest the many articles relating to the shortage of accountants and the various solutions being advocated to relieve the situation, the latest of which was titled ‘Continued shortage of accountants’ in the April 13 edition of WA Business News.
The fact that there exists a shortage in the profession is not questioned and the response to import talent to provide immediate relief is acknowledged.
However, other solutions advocated by some commentators must be challenged against what our association, the Association of Accounting Technicians, believes is an expedient, workable solution to the problem.
The key resides in the considerable skill accumulation that currently exists among industry practitioners.
Using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics the AAT, a leading national professional organisation for bookkeepers and other similar occupations working at that level, estimates there are 150,000 people in occupations that undertake bookkeeping or accounting support roles.
Many are highly experienced practitioners who lack formal qualifications but who are the key resource for the basic accounting function within the organisations that employ them.
Coupled with evidence suggesting that the traditional accounting function is changing, with professional accountants now being challenged with an increasing scope and complexity of regulatory compliance, the more routine tasks are falling to this emerging tier of ‘technicians’.
This is supported by a recent survey undertaken by a major accounting body in which 88 per cent of the members polled supported the establishment of a new category of employment for compliance specialists to fill this role.
In the micro to small business sector, proprietors are increasingly turning to a mix of bookkeeping service providers to do the data input and accounts processing and public accountants to compile and lodge tax returns to overcome compliance and reduce the cost of their overall accounting services.
Practitioners at these levels are extremely competent to undertake an accounting support role.
Many are ‘qualified’ in the context they possess the skills and expertise required, but do not have the piece of paper evidencing that qualification.
As an integral part of its recruitment agenda, the AAT has instigated a skills assessment program that evaluates an applicant’s skills against current national standards.
The program is overseen by a registered training organisation that can issue nationally accredited qualifications at certificate IV, diploma and advanced diploma levels.
The award of a formal qualification enables the applicant to enter the profession or provide the educational platform to pursue further education and attain full professional status.
The skills assessment program has attracted significant interest and offers a short-term, expedient way to formally recognise the qualifications of an emerging, important tier in the accounting services supply chain that is assuming many of the basic accounting functions formerly performed by their higher qualified counterparts.
The program also offers a career path option that can contribute to overcoming the present shortage in the higher echelons of the profession
Association of Accounting Technicians