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Building a sustainable pipeline requires broader outreach, targeted messaging

Written on Jun 23, 2022

By Jessica Salerno-Shumaker, OSCPA senior content manager 

A successful accounting pipeline is about more than recruiting large numbers of students and professionals to accounting. 

“It's not just about recruitment,” said OSCPA President & CEO Scott Wiley, CAE, during the June 16 Town Hall and Annual Meeting. “It's about retention, and creating a more welcoming environment, not just in firms, but in the workplace and the broader business community.” 

 Wiley welcomed guest speaker Liz Barentzen, vice president of operations and talent initiatives at the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) to discuss the future of the accounting pipeline. 

The CAQ recently launched a broad brand awareness campaign specifically targeting Black, Hispanic and Latino student populations at the high school and college level. Before launching the campaign, the CAQ conducted qualitative and quantitative research from February to August last year. 

The research found that personal experience with someone in the accounting profession could have a serious influence on choosing accounting as your career. Knowing this, Barentzen said it’s critical to find other ways to reach diverse students who might not have close connections with accounting professionals since representation from those communities is not high. 

Barentzen said the research found that students who don’t choose accounting as a major or minor often listed concerns regarding the level and type of skills required for a career in the profession. She said the goal of the CAQ campaign is to change the narrative about CPAs and the skills needed to be successful in the profession. 

“We also saw that a really big reason was there isn't a passion or interest for the work,” she said. “What we found was that the first intro to accounting course that students take can really be an inhibitor. There's very often not a great experience with that intro to accounting course, and students are dropping off at higher levels.” 

Another revealing detail was that many high school students had already decided on their college major before high school. Barentzen said the profession needs to do a better job of reaching students earlier than high school to expose younger students to the opportunities in accounting. 

Barentzen also indicated that it’s essential for companies looking to hire accounting students to ensure the work environment is a diverse, equitable and inclusive one. She added that recruitment efforts will be wasted if organizations aren’t creating a workplace where people want to stay. 

Wiley noted that OSCPA has a long history building and diversifying the pipeline through a suite of programs for students, some that have been occurring for more than twenty years. OSCPA currently has one of the largest student pipelines in the nation and awarded more than $60,000 in scholarships last year to help deserving students further their education.   

“Our goal is to position the profession to become more representative of the clients and communities they serve and aid in the building of a pipeline of future talent,” Wiley said. 

Click here to help fund the Foundation’s work and learn more about OSCPA’s efforts to build the accounting pipeline.