Authored by: Professor Rashied Small, Executive: Education and Training at the South African Institute of Professional Accounting (SAIPA)
After finishing their tertiary studies, every graduate pursuing the Professional Accountant (SA) designation must complete a three-year learnership at a SAIPA approved training centre (ATC). This ensures they gain supervised practical experience in a wide range of accounting tasks before taking on their duties independently. However, prospective trainees are often concerned about an ATC's entry requirements and why such parameters are demanded of them. Below are the top 10 requirements and why they are important.
1. Application for employment
The first thing to acknowledge is that an ATC is not an educational institute but a real company that has partnered with SAIPA to train its trainee accountants. To attract and retain the clients that keep it in business, it must acquire the appropriate resources to deliver quality services. This includes the staff it hires. You will therefore need to apply for a position and convince the company of your value like any other employee.
The language required by an ATC is not a reflection of its culture but the culture of the client base it must please to stay profitable – customer relationship management is critical to its success. A firm located in Soweto will have different language requirements from one in Port Elizabeth. Trainees often work at a client’s premises and must therefore be able to speak its employees’ dominant language to exchange information accurately and add value to the business.
3. Driver’s license and vehicle
Because trainees often travel between clients and the ATC, it is to their advantage if they own a vehicle and have a valid driver’s license. Services like Gautrain and Uber are often too expensive to be practical for everyday transport, and these costs may only be covered at a lower rate by the employer. Also, a trainee may need to carry a client’s sensitive documents with them. If they leave them behind in a coach or cab, they risk breaching client confidentiality and information protection laws.
4. Digital skills
Many ATCs are moving their data to the Cloud to make it easier to exchange between clients and staff. You may also need to work directly on a client’s accounting software over the internet. At some ATCs, you could even be expected to own a laptop or smartphone for work. In any case, you must know how to use essential Cloud and mobile services like messaging, calendars, file sharing, email and others. Utilisation of technology and digitisation, which was a competitive advantage in the past, has become a basic requirement for an ATC.
5. Soft skills
Most recruiters will favour candidates with excellent soft skills. These are personal disciplines that allow trainees to work interactively and be more productive. For example, regardless of your language, you must be able to communicate technical information with clients clearly and concisely. Other soft skills you should develop include business writing, team work, report writing, speaking and presentations, time management, and more. 21st century business demands and the advancement of technology are placing greater emphasis on the need for the professional’s soft skills to take their rightful place in the accounting domain.
6. Professional appearance
In one study, an airline asked passengers if a dirty meal tray suggested the aircraft’s engines were poorly maintained. Over 70% said yes. Likewise, an accountant’s smart appearance assures the ATC’s clients that it is serious about their needs and capable of delivering excellent service. You will therefore be expected to dress in neat business attire and maintain a tidy appearance that respects the image the ATC wishes to project.
7. Professional CV
When applying for a position at an ATC, you will need to present the recruiter with a professional CV. Do some research to find out what information is required and what you should leave out. A well- crafted CV that offers only useful information is a reflection of your aspirations and drive to succeed in your career. So put in the time and effort to make yours stand out because the CV is the first impression gained by the recruiter.
8. Online presence
If the ATC can find information about your personal life online, so can its clients. Both like to know they are dealing with people of good character and sober habits, so they might check your social profiles. Trainees should ensure their social accounts are private and that any public-facing profiles are complete, professional and don’t share personal opinions on sensitive topics that might bring the firm into disrepute.
9. Psychometric testing
You may be required to undergo psychometric analysis to determine your personality and behavioural traits. The purpose of this examination is to identify useful information like your preferred management style, which soft skills you need training on, or how well you handle conflict. This, and testing for drug use and alcoholism, is common when hiring for professional positions.
10. History of misconduct
A trainee must not have a criminal record or any record of professional misconduct. Again, the ATC has to protect its reputation because clients may lose confidence if its employees have a questionable history.
Getting more information
Apart from the above ATC requirements, prospective trainees can review SAIPA’s comprehensive Learnership Guide for more details on what’s expected of them, the ATC and their Monitoring Officer. Please email our offices for a link to the document: firstname.lastname@example.org.
MEDIA CONTACT: Stephné du Toit, 084 587 9933, email@example.com, www.atthatpoint.co.za
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