Special report: How ICAS is attracting the next generation of CAs and ATOs
ICAS is investing in the profession’s future with two campaigns aimed at attracting top talent and broadening the options for employers
Next year, ICAS will launch its new syllabus that will, in turn, transform how students learn and train to become a CA. The institute recently initiated two campaigns to spread the word about the greater flexibility that the syllabus offers and to attract both new CAs and new authorised training offices (ATOs).
As Poppy Collinson, Director of Business Development, says: “For every person who wants to be a CA, we want to show there’s a clear pathway both into and through the qualification. But we also need to think about employers, and for everybody who’d like to employ or train a CA, or who doesn’t yet know they need to, we want to make that process as simple as possible. So there’s a way to flex the qualification that works around both busy and quieter periods of work, wherever you are in the UK.
“Another key area is funding. We work with both the Scottish and UK governments around level seven apprenticeships and the Robert Gordon University graduate apprenticeship scheme. We want to make sure employers know that funding is out there for them.”
To that end, the business development team has been meeting prospective ATOs with a campaign, titled The best, on your terms. They are outlining why it will be so much easier to take on and train an ICAS student, while also taking the opportunity to dispel a few myths. For example, it’s not true that only CAs can train other CAs. In fact, you don’t even need a CA within an organisation to become an ATO.
“There is also this perception we’re an exclusively Scottish qualification. That’s not the case. It’s around 50/50 between students from Scotland and the rest of the UK. We’re also asking members to think about whether they work for an organisation that doesn’t currently train CAs – and if not, why not? It could be something that organisation benefits from. Two big blockers for industry and small businesses are the issues of flexibility and cost. But whether you want 100 CAs or one, there is a programme and the scope for you to do it.”
Sky's the limit
For Judith Wilson, University Engagement Manager, September and October is a busy period, as students begin the academic year, while schools, colleges and universities host recruitment fairs. This year, ICAS unveiled a campaign aimed at attracting the next cohort of would-be CAs with the strapline “With ICAS opportunity doesn’t knock, it kicks down the door”.
“We wanted to get away from a stereotypical image of a CA but also underline that the qualification presents you with so many possibilities that the sky is the limit,” says Judith. “Looking at the student intakes from universities across the UK has been fascinating.
“We see up to 60% of our annual student intake come from students who haven’t studied accountancy at university. And they don’t all come from economics and business studies. We get a lot of science graduates as well as law and history students.”
The price of higher education coupled with the cost-of-living crisis has seen a rise in the number of school leavers studying to become CAs. The chance to earn as you learn is unquestionably attractive. But another important part of the narrative for becoming a CA is that the qualification allows students to take their career in whatever direction they choose.
“Upskilling is something this generation is really interested in,” says Judith. “They want their employers not just to find them a desk and throw work their way, but to be investing in them, supporting their development. And the CA qualification is fantastic for that – the element of variety is important. And the fact that sustainability is a core part of the new syllabus really appeals to Gen Z.”
Although it is still early days, Judith has been delighted with the feedback so far. “People who’ve been working with ICAS for a long time say they like the freshness of it,” she says. “They can compare and contrast. So when we hear that, it feels reassuring that we’ve gone down the right route.”
For Poppy, the opportunity to go out and talk to people face to face about ICAS’ evolution is one she clearly relishes: “I’m really passionate about opening doors for students and firms, and I think the new syllabus enables that. I’m genuinely excited about what that means for employers and students alike.”
Find out more at icas.com/opportunitykicks