Today at NAF Next 2016 - NAF’s annual professional development conference - the AICPA andNAFannounced the launch of a new high school prep program aimed at increasing and diversifying the pipeline of students entering the accounting profession. Dubbed theAICPA/NAF Recognition Program, the initiative will launch nationwide this Fall in 209 Academies of Finance in 117 school districts across 32 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The program will look to "utilize multiple learning platforms to engage NAF Academy of Finance high school students early in their career decision-making process and teach them about the long-term career opportunities" available to CPAs, according to a release. Previously, a pilot version of the program reached students in Florida, Maryland, New York and North Carolina during the 2015-16 academic year.

The nationwide program will teach students technical accounting and finance skills, in addition to the necessary soft skills – such as leadership, communication, and time management - that will prepare them in pursuing accounting degrees.

“We’ve been extremely encouraged by the results thus far from the AICPA/NAF Recognition Program and are excited to expand our work with NAF to a nationwide model this school year,” said Kim Drumgo, AICPA director of Diversity and Inclusion and vice chair of the National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, per a press release. “We’ve seen repeatedly that early exposure to accounting courses and information about the opportunities that being a CPA offers increases the likelihood that students decide to enter the accounting profession. This program is a way to increase the diversity in the profession by drawing from the widest pool of talented students as possible.”

“We are honored to stand here today, alongside AICPA, and be able to offer more students the opportunity to truly understand the wide variety of career paths an accounting focused financial education can lead them to," stated NAF president JD Hoye. "This is AICPA’s first-ever endorsement of an educational approach that certifies students as ready to pursue careers as CPAs. This is a true testament to the effectiveness of NAF’s educational design and the importance of the education and business communities coming together. We look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that all Academy of Finance students are college, career, and future ready.”

The AICPA/NAF Recognition Program arrives on the heels of the U.S. census projecting that minorities will comprise the majority of the population in the U.S. by 2045. The program will look to embrace these changes by looking to diversify the pipeline of talent and in turn creating a more inclusive accounting profession reflective of the population.

To be recognized by the AICPA/NAF program, students must pass at least two finance or accounting courses, graduate high school, and participate in a paid internship facilitated by NAF. They also must complete an online program and register as a student affiliate member on the AICPA’s Start Here, Go Places website.

Additionally, students will complete AICPA surveys before and after the program to assess their thoughts on the accounting profession and whether they plan on taking future accounting courses. The AICPA and NAF will use that feedback to ensure an increase in the accounting pipeline in future years.

For more on the AICPA/NAF Recognition program, head to the Start Here, Go Placessite here.