Why I'm passionate about the CA qualification
Fiona Winter is Director of Development for CA Education; in the first of our ‘Inside ICAS’ series, Fiona explains why she’s so passionate about the CA qualification.
In my role as one of the Education directors here at ICAS, I'm closely involved in the development of the CA syllabus - I also teach all levels of the CA course around the UK. My role is really varied – one day I can be teaching a class on ethics, tax or TPE case studies, and the next I’m meeting with training firms to discuss different ways of delivering teaching to their students. I’ve been with ICAS for 15 years, so you can tell that I love my role!
I’m passionate about the CA qualification, and about ensuring that every student has the best possible experience with ICAS. For me, the CA qualification is special for a number of reasons:
1. It's diverse
Every CA student member is different.
They come from varied backgrounds and have a range of experience, and are all working in different areas. Some will specialise early and others will maintain a broader range of clients and technical expertise over their training. Increasingly, those in my classes will have studied and travelled across the globe and will have a wide range of experiences that they bring with them.
It’s that diversity that keeps things fresh, not just for me, but for students themselves, as they share different perspectives and learn from each other.
2. It combines technical knowledge with business skills
The CA qualification caters well for this diverse mix of individuals and their roles, with its broad range of technical topics. But there’s so much more to the CA qualification than simply gaining good technical skills.
The TPS and TPE papers, coupled with on-the-job practical experience, build the skills which every newly-qualified CA will use every day: professionalism, technical expertise, critical thinking and the ability to question a situation.
3. It has a real life focus
The CA qualification is hugely practical, and that’s a real bonus.
The practical experience element of the course means that newly-qualified CAs will get a good range of relevant experience during their training contract. On top of that, the TPE course and exam are focused on trying to replicate the work environment as closely as possible.
Nerdy tax geek I may be, but I don’t memorise every section of the legislation, and I don’t write every document from scratch. It’s important to use a range of sources of information and previous work as your starting point. At TPE level, students must refer to their existing notes and create their responses to the question on laptops – mirroring what they would do out in the real world.
4. It’s a journey
I’m often lucky enough to teach classes across TC, TPS and TPE, sometimes to the same students. When this happens, I get to see the journey that people take through the qualification as they continue to build upon their technical knowledge, their workplace skills and their professionalism. Being a part of that is one of the reasons I’m still here after 15 years.
One of my favourite days in the ICAS calendar is the annual admission ceremony. This is a big day, when student members finally become CAs after all their hard work. For those of you reaching the end of your training contracts, I’d strongly encourage you to attend this ceremony. It gives you, and the people who have supported you along the way, a real chance to stand back and take stock of everything you have achieved.
Without giving away my age, it's 20 years since I qualified as a CA. Things have changed quite a lot since I was a student, but one thing remains – I’m as passionate about the CA qualification now as I was back then.