Saturday, July 18, 2015

A better way to train accountants

Over the past few years, I met a few accountancy graduates from NUS and SIM. I found that their knowledge of booking and keeping a simple set of accounts to be lacking. They do not have any practical experience or common sense on how to organize the records and keep the books and make the book keeping entries.

A few decades earlier, they would have gone to work in the accounting department of a company and pursue the professional accountancy qualification by studying part time. When they qualified, they would have good useful working experience and will be confident in doing their job.

I find the old way of training accountants to be better than a 4 year full time university course.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

I am an accountancy graduate within the last decade from 1 of the big 3 local universities here. I came across your blogs while planning my financials. During my university years, I have worked alongside students who did part-time bookkeeping at private companies during school year and holidays.

From a employee viewpoint, this experience did contribute to my understanding. It would be great if instead, there were more opportunities/openness for students to do such part-time work (vs your suggestion of part-time study). After going through the big 4 audit work experience, my knowledge increased tenfold. This university experience also builds up a wider professional network in your career through the people you meet and may become privy to job opportunities in future.

I do agree that 4 years may be too long for a degree. However, I still value my university experience as i think it also forces people to learn how to manage their time and stress. There is still time to adapt to tight deadlines before thrown into the commercial world. If one is unsuccessful in adapting to the fast pace in a job right away, any bad performances will leave a bad impression and may have an impact on your career in that company.

I would consider degrees still a necessity as it still is a consideration for most employers. I have had a US MNC superior (having no knowledge of our education scene) asking local HR about the quality of university degrees of my team (eg does this person have a degree from a good local uni?).

From an employer view point, you would know nothing about a candidate. When deciding to hire between a candidate who managed to graduate under the conditions in a university versus someone who flunked university versus someone who never went, sometimes it depends on whether the employer will take a chance on a non-graduate.

Having been in the working force for several years now and had close work experience with my juniors & seniors 1 year apart, there is a difference (though not always) in calibre between people of different educational/schooling backgrounds. I have also seen how as a result, this has positively/negatively impacted my superiors' future hiring decisions.

I have been in 3 MNCs and have never known anyone past a managerial position who was a non-graduate in Singapore or overseas. A non-graduate might also have a tougher time gaining trust and respect from peers or more importantly, people he/she has to lead, especially if the subordinate is a degree-holder.

So on hindsight, if I were an unemployed youth having to build a career that needs to provide me 40+years of sustainable income till retirement, unless the employer mindset/risk appetite can be changed, I would still choose to increase my chances by getting a degree. This is because employers have more bargaining power and a degree is my way of increasing mine.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and for dispensing advice on your blog.

Kin Lian Tan said...


We need a mix of graduates and non-graduates. Those with leadership quality can still go to university and get the benefits of a tertiary education.

But, for those who are not suited for the academic field, a better way is to learn "the old way" by work and study. We must revive the "old way" as an option.

We need to train our people better. We should provide alternatives to the university route.

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