Feb 19, 2013

Outsmart the Enemy in the Talent War

By Lori Braden, Vice President, Strategic Marketing

I think it’s a little distasteful when people refer to hiring practices as a talent war, but the more I learn about accounting firm recruitment, I understand the graphic metaphor. The stakes are high and the talent pool is small. Big 4 firms have recruiting staff that blanket the country in search of the best. They offer experience and salaries that most regional and local firms can’t match, which leaves the smaller organizations at a distinct disadvantage.

But one obstacle all firms face, including the Big Four, is diversity recruitment.

According to the AICPA’s 2011 Trends Report, minorities represent 21 percent of the accounting profession.

aicpamtr2011When PICPA’s Diversity Committee released Increasing Talent, Clients, and Revenue at Your Organization, it presented the business case and a toolkit for diversity. The “Building the Talent Pool—Recruitment and Retention” section of the toolkit addresses establishing a presence on campus, by partnering with colleges and universities. No brainer, right? Most firms have been doing this for years. But I propose that regional and local firms go a step further, yet closer to home: community college.

I know what you’re thinking—you want quality hires, not underachievers. When I was choosing a college, the stereotype was that community college was for students who weren’t academically gifted or motivated. I’m not so sure that’s the case any longer—or if it ever was. With the current economy and the increasing costs of higher education, many students are opting for community college for core courses with a plan to transfer to a four year institution to complete their degree.

Community colleges offer accessible, affordable, workforce development, and career and skill training opportunities. Community colleges create pathways to bachelor’s degrees for thousands of students unable to afford four full years of university tuition.

Pennsylvania has 14 community colleges. Thirteen of those institutions offer accounting programs. According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), “Community colleges provide access to higher education for nearly half of all minority undergraduate students and more than 40 percent of undergraduate students living in poverty.” In Pennsylvania, nearly 30 percent of enrolled students are minorities.

Building relationships with community colleges can give accounting firms an alternate route to uncovering talent. The manufacturing and health care industries are already taking advantage of this talent by partnering with community colleges to develop specialized training. Accounting firms can benefit in a number of ways: 

  • Firm staff can serve as adjunct accounting professors and talent scouts. 
  • Firm staff can work with counselors to establish job fairs, interviews, internships, and other career support opportunities. 
  • Firm staff can mentor students enrolled in accounting programs. 
  • Firms can provide financial support and incentives to assist the highest achievers in their transfer to another institution for a BA or MA.
Community colleges make education affordable for students who would otherwise miss out. Make sure you don’t miss out on their talent. Include community colleges in your recruitment plan.

PA Community Colleges with Accounting Programs

Community College of Allegheny County

Montgomery County Community College 

Bucks County Community College  

Northampton County Area Community College  

Butler County Community College  

Community College of Philadelphia 

Delaware County Community College
Reading Area Community College 

Harrisburg Area Community College 

Westmoreland County Community College 

Lehigh Carbon Community College 

Pennsylvania Highlands Community College 

Luzerne County Community College

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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.