The Institute of Management Accountants has opened a new Competency Crisis microsite and community designed to give a variety of accounting and finance stakeholders, including professionals, students, employers and academics, a forum to discuss the issue of the talent gap in the accounting profession and come up with potential solutions.

The site, which debuted earlier this month, is essentially a call to action, according to IMA president and CEO Jeffrey C. Thomson, to produce a dialogue among accounting associations, employers, students and academia, for what the IMA calling the “competency crisis in accounting.”

“When you take a societal look at this, CFOs and CFO teams are vital to organizational success in both preserving value and creating new value through ethics, internal controls, financial accounting and good, solid accounting practices,” Thomson said in an interview Tuesday. “The concern that we’ve had is that the curriculum at the undergraduate accounting level is not preparing the future accountant for what they’re going to do on the job. When you look at the undergraduate accounting curriculum, for the most part it prepares students for audit jobs, which is a very good way to start your career, but the vast majority of accounting students are going to find their way into business, and they do a whole lot more than audit. They do planning, they do analysis, they do synthesis, they do integration, all the things that are required to both preserve and create new value. So it’s that gap between what accounting educators teach and what’s needed in practice by employers where we want to create some momentum and dialogue across various constituencies. If we all don’t step up, we’re concerned that we’ll continue to have this crisis in the accounting profession.”

The new site has been generating a fair degree of traffic, dialogue and engagement since it launched about two weeks ago, according to Thomson. He noted that the site addresses some of the findings of a study last year by the Pathways Commission on Accounting Higher Education, a joint effort of the American Institute of CPAs and the American Accounting Association, in which representatives from the IMA and other groups also participated (see Report on Future of Accounting Education Released).

One of the recommendations included improving the accounting curriculum taught in schools. The report cited a presentation given at one of the Pathway Commission’s meetings in 2011 and warned, “If the accounting community continues to concentrate on the financial accounting system and not understand the technology and dynamic business processes that run companies of the 21st century, the accounting profession has the potential to become obsolete.” Thomson sees that as a warning that the accounting profession could become obsolete if it continues to focus its educational efforts on only auditing work. He cited another report from a staffing company, the Manpower Group, saying that accounting positions were among the hardest to fill. Early this year, his group and the AAA introduced recommendations for an accounting curriculum framework (see Accounting Education Needs to Bridge Real-World Skills Gap).

The IMA has now created the Competency Crisis site in an effort to address these problems further. Thomson noted that the site has only a subtle amount of IMA branding because his organization hopes to attract people from all parts of the profession to contribute their feedback and ideas for solving the talent gap problem. The IMA is also planning a broad-based social media campaign to encourage more engagement among the different constituencies.

“Make no mistake about it, we’re investing resources into this activity,” said Thomson. “The site is attracting people from all different stakeholder groups, and they’re actually spending a fair amount of time on the site; we estimate about three times more than the industry standard in terms of the amount of time they’re on the site, engaging or exploring and perusing. We’re really excited by the potential.”

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