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December 14, 2008

Britain facing skills shortage

Despite recent job cuts across many sectors, the accounting industry is likely to face a skills shortage in coming years, according to a report from recruitment firm Robert Half.

The report, Preparing For the UK’s Recruitment Needs: The Next Five Years, said regulation was one factor threatening the industry.

It also warned against new entrants specialising too early in their careers and missing out on broader experience. It suggested educational institutes could restrict their teaching of deep technical knowledge and increase the commercial aspects of the curriculum in order to deal with the potential shortage.

The director of education at the UK-based Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), Robert Jelly, told The Accountant he agreed regulatory issues could be a factor in deterring new entrants from the profession, especially within audit.

“There are a lot of regulatory issues that are now involved in audit training, not least IFRS, and it is not the most exciting of materials to attract new people into the industry,” he said.

He added that teaching broader commercial skills is crucial, particularly ‘soft’ skills such as negotiation and interpersonal skills.

“We think [the] CIMA [qualification] is already strongly based in those areas but we have increased the exposure of our students to the impacts of globalisation, that includes finance function, offshore [business process outsourcing], shared services,” he said.

Robert Half managing director Phil Sheridan said the profession must look beyond the downturn, continue to focus on attracting and retaining the next wave of accounting professionals, and work hard to rebrand and become more attractive to today’s young people. 

“Every new working generation is shaped by the social, technological and economic environment of the day, and Generation Y is no different. In an era where communication and technology is at the forefront, employers need to embrace this group in order to meet the business challenges of the future,” Sheridan added.

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