Creating future-ready CPAs: What you can do now to help accounting students

The coronavirus has made it necessary for white-collar professionals to work remotely and for all to practice social distancing. Colleges and universities have canceled in-person classes and are transitioning to distance learning. The digital age, the fourth industrial revolution, and the future of work are now being tested by archaic bureaucratic and innovative companies alike.

As a CPA who has worn many hats, who has had more jobs than Elizabeth Taylor had husbands, and who is currently working as an adjunct lecturer and independent accounting consultant while also fulfilling seasonal tax-related roles, I try to stay calm and collected during these testing times. Tax season isn’t canceled and I am looking forward to continuing leading the three accounting courses I teach virtually so my students can finish the semester strong. I am fortunate that I have ample experience in change and crisis management, remote projects, and a vast number of resources and a large network to leverage to make sure things go smoothly and class remains as engaging as possible.

How can CPAs who are getting ready to transform into, or already are, future-ready CPAs help accounting students during this period of distance learning? Turns out that CPAs can do a lot to assist students with little time commitment. Being away from the office doesn’t cancel paying it forward.

The future is here, and the time to be here for accounting students is now.

Below are a few things CPAs can do:

Virtual guest speaking
Professors are looking for ways to keep students engaged during this period. Working from home enables CPAs to join a live lecture for 10 to 15 minutes to give real-life examples and tell their story.
Virtual internships
Some students will unfortunately temporarily or permanently lose their jobs during this crisis. Tax and busy season are not canceled. CPAs and hiring managers can tap into the pool of student candidates they have interacted with and interviewed in the past to extend short-term internships to get an extra hand on deck for this busy time, while helping students keep on track financially.
Virtual shadowing
Work hasn’t been canceled for CPAs. How about letting a student observe your videoconference call as you hold an internal or external meeting? This will showcase communication and leadership skills needed for the future of work and offer practical insight on what our work entails. It goes without saying that sensitive client information that requires confidentiality or NDAs should not be displayed to parties who have not received clearance or approval can’t view such content.
Virtual career fairs and networking events
In this day and age, videoconferencing applications allow for breakout sessions, etc. Why not leverage such technology to engage students and give them a platform to learn more about your organization and the profession? The length of the sessions may have to be shorter due to added home and work responsibilities students may have as schools are closed, etc. Networking is not canceled just because social distancing has been implemented.
Virtual tutoring and webinars for the basics
Given that professors will not able to physically meet with their students, students may need some additional clarity on accounting topics and basics. CPAs who need a break from remote work could volunteer to tutor students or present a short webinar or YouTube videos that can help students stay ahead on their schoolwork.
Remote mentoring
Distance learning may cause stress to some students. As they adapt to this new style of learning and to not being able to be on campus, they may lose sight of some of their goals. CPAs can set aside 30 to 90 minutes a week to mentor one of two students through the end of the semester. Having consistent support can make a great impact on student success.
Does your firm have any excess functional equipment? If so, if you have students in your network who may need more robust equipment to complete their school work via distance learning, consider loaning the equipment to them.
These times may be financially challenging for students from all walks of life. A few hundreds or thousands of dollars may not break the bank for your organization, but may make a world of a difference to a student. Consider setting up an ad hoc benevolent fund for students in your network and providing your interns with a special stipend to assist them during this time.