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INFLUENCE: ASSESSMENT OF PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE PROGRAMME

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The APC is a ground-breaking innovation which confirms that SAICA is a global leader in professional accounting education and assessment. By Jeff Rowlands

Accounting Professional Training (APT) is proud to have been associated with this initiative and to have provided the professional programme for the first-ever APC. APT is particularly proud that some 80% of all APC candidates chose the APT professional programme in 2014.

APT has provided the programme for the PPE and the Part II examination (Financial Management) since these examinations were introduced in 1999, and enthusiastically accepted the challenge of providing a completely different programme for candidates writing the APC for the first time in 2014. Staff of APT, who are drawn from a number of different universities and from the profession, spent several years designing a programme specifically aimed at developing professional competence. The new programme was to be fundamentally different from those that prepared candidates for the PPE and Part II, both of which had a sharp focus on technical rather than professional competence.

Careful analysis of the SAICA qualification process revealed that, while the academic programme and the ITC place much emphasis on soft skills (pervasive qualities and skills), a central objective is the acquisition and assessment of technical competence in the accounting disciplines. This technical competence is developed through the university programmes. The SAICA training programme (articles) emphasises the application of technical competence in ‘real life’. In order for candidates to move from the contrived environment of the academic programme to the world of work, they must further develop the ‘soft skills’ that enable them to apply their technical competence in practice. Thus the training programme focuses on the acquisition of the skills and attitudes that enable candidates to apply the technical competence that they developed in the academic programme.

The role of the APT professional programme is to support the training offices as they set out to develop professional competence – the ability to apply technical competence in the ‘real world’. Because the APC replicates the ‘real world’ to the extent possible in a written examination, the APT professional programme not only prepares candidates for the world of work, but is also a comprehensive preparation for the APC. The last of the six modules in the APT programme focuses fully on the APC and has been designed to be a ‘board course’.

After careful research and after carefully considering how professional competence is developed in the workplace, APT took the decision to base the programme on direct, face-to-face contact between staff and candidates, while incorporating a significant element of online learning. This blended approach recognises that people learn effectively by working in teams and through interaction with each other and others in the workplace. Interaction with others is particularly important in the case of professional competence where judgement, an understanding of context and the environment, and the ability to communicate effectively is so crucial. APT recognised that the foundation of its programme, contact between staff and candidates, should not be in the form of lectures but should rather be characterised by facilitated discussion and debate.

A second fundamental component of the APT programme is that it addresses recent technical developments through its CPD programme. This programme, which is modelled on the SAICA CPD programme, addresses recent technical developments that candidates may not have been exposed to in their university studies. The 2015 APT CPD programme will address IFRS 15, tax updates, integrated reporting, the new audit report and other topics.  Candidates may use APT online resources for their CPD or may use other opportunities (such as firm interventions). APT candidates must log their CPD on the APT website and answer a short quiz in order for their CPD to be recognised. Candidates who do not meet their CPD obligations are not admitted to the final assessment.

The APT programme has been designed to be flexible and to cater for the learning needs of individual candidates and for the wide variety of training contexts that characterise the SAICA training programme. Flexibility in the APT programme includes programme design that responds to each candidate’s progress, additional classes where necessary and opportunity for individual consultation. The flexible nature of the APT programme was very well received by candidates in 2014.

APT has always understood its obligation to transformation in the profession, has a proud history in this regard, and is delighted that the vast majority of black APC candidates in 2014 chose the APT programme. APT has a number of exciting initiatives in place for 2015 that focus on this aspect of its programme.

APT recognises that most if not all APC candidates will become CAs(SA) – they have successfully completed the demanding academic programme, have passed the ITC, and have completed at least 20 months of the SAICA training programme – they have the ability, aptitude and have shown that they can apply themselves. For this reason, APT makes every effort to ensure that each of its candidates is afforded the full opportunity to complete the APT programme successfully and enter the APC. This means that every APT candidate has full access to APT staff and that personal consultations and other support are available to all.

APT congratulates SAICA on the very successful introduction of the APC and is delighted that SAICA is pleased with the quality of candidates who wrote the exam in 2014.

Author:

Jeff Rowlands is chairman of APT