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March 24, 2009

IFAC launches technician programme guidance

The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) has released a good practice guide to help educational bodies in developing nations establish accounting technician programmes.

The guide provides a framework for institutes to qualify technicians through education, training and the assessment of skills and competence.

IFAC developing nations committee chairman Ignatius Sehoole told The Accountant the shortage of technicians in the developing world is far more acute than in developed countries.

“Throughout the developing world, there are still many areas where technology is a luxury and, therefore, you still have a lot of manual systems at the lower level,” Sehoole said.

“Even in areas where they have the top-level professionals, this highly qualified professional often ends up having to do the mundane work because there is no one at that level to do it.

“That is an unwise use of resources where you have a skills shortage.”

Exacerbating the problem is the lack of professional bodies that focus on technicians courses.

The UK has one of the most developed technician professions, led by the Association of Accounting Technicians, an institute with 36,000 members and 65,000 student or affiliates across the world.

In other countries, established professional bodies provide some level of support to the development of technicians but in a lot of the developing world this hasn’t been the case.

“Generally when people set up institutes everyone wants to play for the ‘A-League’ so they tend not to be looking at the technicians side,” Sehoole explained.

Developing countries do not have a luxury of resources, so institutes must be comprehensive, Sehoole said. This includes covering the public, as well as private, sector.

Although the IFAC guide, The Education, Training and Development of Accounting Technicians, provides a robust framework for setting up a technician programme, additional help may still be required in the implementation phase.

Sehoole is the former executive president of South African Institute of Chartered Accountants and said a major hurdle in education provision is cost. IFAC has started talking with development funding agencies to assist in this regard.

Sehoole said the early signs are positive and technician programmes are attracting interest from several IFAC member bodies.

“In [South Africa] we launched a technician programme last year and it is growing like you can’t believe,” he said. As soon as our neighbouring countries heard about this they asked for assistance.”

There have been six enquiries about the technician programme from countries in Southern Africa alone.

The guide can be downloaded from the IFAC website.

Arvind Hickman

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