How the ICAS Foundation is making a difference
The ICAS-led Foundation charity goes from strength to strength and asks members to lend their expertise to benefit young people, reports Alec Mackenzie.
Ensuring the best and brightest can succeed at university regardless of their background is a perennial subject for debate and while the gap between underprivileged and better-off students is narrowing, there remains much work to be done.
It's a concern shared by the ICAS Foundation, the charitable body established in 2012 to support academically talented young people from disadvantaged communities taking their first steps towards a professional career in accountancy or finance at university.
The ICAS Foundation currently provides 29 undergraduate students with bursaries of up to £2,500 per year and has just awarded 34 new bursaries for those starting university in September 2015, including for the first time outside Scotland at University of Birmingham.
Grants of up to £1,500 are also available and outside term time the ICAS Foundation can, with the help of accountancy firms, place students on internships to gain relevant professional experience.
In addition to helping remove financial barriers to academic study, each bursary recipient is enrolled in the ICAS Foundation's mentoring scheme, enabling them to build a professional relationship with a CA who can offer guidance, advice and encouragement.
Ian McNab CA, a retired risk manager with Standard Life, is mentoring two students at Dundee University. On his decision to become a mentor last year, he says: "I wanted to give something back and I thought I could relate to those who were needing help. I've had quite a varied career so I felt I could pass on my experience and let them see that becoming a CA opens up different avenues."
Becoming a mentor isn't a time-intensive commitment and every month Ian will alternately meet his mentees and speak to them over the phone. Both are the first in their families to go to university and he's keen to impress upon them the importance of making the most of their time there.
"I'm trying to open their eyes to what's on offer but not dictate to them at all," says Ian. "It's a bit like steering a small boat. I've got my hand on the tiller and I'm correcting them as they go."
Callum Parker is an ICAS Foundation beneficiary who has appreciated the insight of his mentor, Daniel Hedley.
A third year accountancy and finance student at Heriot-Watt University, Callum recently began a summer internship with Baker Tilly alongside a part-time position with ICAS.
He says: "Daniel is a good guy to talk to and I speak to him quite often. He rang me just the other day because he remembered that I was starting at Baker Tilly, so it's great to go to him if I need any advice. I know he's there to support me in looking at career options and giving guidance about interviews.
He adds: "The ICAS Foundation has also helped a lot in covering the costs of moving from Ayrshire to Edinburgh and with getting supplies."
How the ICAS Foundation works
The ICAS Foundation relies on voluntary income, through member donations and partnerships with major corporates. Don Macleod CA, chairman of California-based semiconductor and precision power management business Intersil, is a donor who believes giving to the ICAS Foundation provides a valuable opportunity for expat CAs like himself to reconnect with the Institute.
He says: "I've been really impressed with ICAS' new mission of inclusiveness and creating communities around the world and I applaud initiatives that break down barriers and enable people from different backgrounds to become members.
"By supporting the ICAS Foundation, those who have made their way successfully in life, both in Scotland but particularly outside Scotland, can do something for the long-term future of the country and the Institute."
Whether making a donation, offering time as a mentor, or providing an internship, a contribution to the ICAS Foundation has the potential to guide a young person towards a fulfilling lifelong profession.
We are recruiting for more mentors. Visit www.icasfoundation.org.uk for further details and to apply. The ICAS Foundation is a registered Scottish charity SCO34836.