Supporting university students to become CAs
ICAS Foundation student, Sean Devine, recently completed a four-week summer work experience placement with RSM UK, based in their Glasgow office. He tells ICAS about the opportunity to put his skills to use and sample a taste of working in audit, tax and consultation services.
Launched in 2012, the ICAS Foundation aims to support academically talented young people from disadvantaged communities into university to study accountancy or finance, through the provision of mentoring, financial assistance and paid internships.
Sean, a budding accountant, secured a placement with RSM through the Foundation and spent four weeks learning the ropes.
Bringing theory to life
“It may be a cliché to say, but nothing can substitute experience and I’ve found the last four weeks immensely useful,” explains Sean.
“It gave me the opportunity to put into practice what I’ve learned at university. In fact, [in] my first week I supported the tax team on a range of personal and corporate tax issues: I had just completed my tax exam so I could transfer my knowledge, which was fresh in my mind, into a practical environment.”
Building a little black book
“Everybody always says ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ and so far; I’ve met loads of new people; developed relationships with practicing professionals and fellow graduates; and learned new information and skills, which I hope will help to shape my future career in accountancy,” he said.
Getting stuck in
Sean’s time with RSM helped to explode pervasive myths around work experience, including endless photocopying and making cups of tea: “I got to shadow the audit team on an active housing association audit and learned more about a range of testing techniques, such as sample, substantive and call and casting.
“I was even invited to visit a client which gave me a unique insight into client service and the importance of really understanding their business, which is at the heart of RSM’s approach.
"Each experience pushed me out of my comfort zone, which was daunting, but ultimately helped me to grow personally and professionally,” he confirms.
Work experience can help with major decisions
“I’m sure many students are having sleepless nights at the minute considering whether to commit to a graduate programme and whether to pursue professional qualifications. It’s a big decision to make, but I feel my time at RSM has reaffirmed my career choice,” said Sean.
“Not only did I experience a range of services lines, but I got a feel for the culture of an accountancy practice to see if it suits me. Effectively, I got to ‘try before I buy’.
"I know not all firms will be the same, but life at RSM is a friendly, welcoming environment where everyone collaborates and pulls in the same direction to deliver excellent client service, which is somewhere I’d like to see myself in the future.”
How CAs can help university students
The ICAS Foundation delivers financial support and career support through a number of mechanisms, including mentoring for students. The scheme brings together young people with CAs who are able to offer guidance, support and encouragement.
When you have successfully completed your qualification and have started practising as a CA, think about the opportunities to pass on your experience to a young person. The process also helps mentors to gain perspective on their own career through the two-way process of support.
Mentoring can also help develop your own leadership qualities; effective mentors display self-awareness as well as the motivation for continual progression and improvement, which are highly-prized attributes for professional individuals.