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As the South African economy grows, the skills shortage poses a serious threat. There is a particular need and demand for skilled accounting staff in all sectors and in all sizes and types of organisation.

To address the critical skills shortage of intermediate level accounting skills in both the private and public sector, the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) in partnership with the London based Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) has launched a new professional body for Accounting Technicians.

The Association of Accounting Technicians South Africa [AAT(SA)] provides a new career path in accountancy, which will benefit learners, employees, employers and the South African economy.

The new organisation will offer seven membership levels to reflect increasing skills and experience. AAT(SA) will provide qualifications at NQF levels three to five and will also offer membership to people with relevant qualifications, prior learning and work experience.

A recent independent research survey into the shortage of financial skills commissioned by SAICA, and conducted by Research Focus (PTY) Ltd and the Tshwane University of Technology has indicated that there was a shortage of approximately 22 030 accountants among the 739 organisations interviewed, of which 16 642 vacancies existed for NQF level three to six accountants in business and government, and in both the financial and non-financial services sectors.

Ignatius Sehoole, executive president of SAICA says, “AAT(SA) represents a sound business case for SAICA to address the accounting skills shortage in South Africa.  It is an opportunity to initiate an exciting partnership”.

In short, says Chantyl Mulder, director of AAT(SA) and SAICA’s senior executive for transformation and growth, “For any nation to be an equal player in the global market, it is essential that the workforce is well trained with the right skills needed to do their job. AAT(SA) is a unique partnership between SAICA and AAT developed to improve service delivery and skills for business and the economy, and to provide personal development opportunities for individuals”.

Unlike many other programmes, the AAT(SA) qualification is internationally recognised yet tailored specifically for the local market. “Our programme works with South African currency and local tax laws and requirements, therefore giving employees knowledge and skills that are tailored to our own economy and that they will be able to put into action,” says Mulder.

Mulder says that AAT(SA) is a designation from which both employees and employers will benefit. “Many employers have faced the challenge of recruiting someone with a qualification but who cannot do the job. By making sure you recruit staff that carry an AAT(SA) membership card, employers can provide a benchmark that enables them to grow their staff skills and their business simultaneously.”

Jane Scott Paul, chief executive of the AAT says the benefits of the AAT(SA) qualification for prospective members is that it provides them with the practical skills they need to work in all sectors of the economy, including public service, private enterprise, charities and NGOs.

According to Scott Paul, AAT(SA) will begin operations with 800 members, as both the current AAT members in South Africa and the AAT(SA) associates of SAICA will automatically be eligible for membership of the new organisation.

SAICA previously acknowledged associates, some of whom had completed the UK-based AAT programme.  As AAT(SA) is a separate professional body, it will have its own Recognition of Prior Learning structure (as an introductory offer only) and will quality assure and promote the delivery of an AAT learning pathway locally, to support members who have completed the training and who register for membership.  Existing associates of SAICA will, however, benefit from dual membership.

AAT(SA) will be housed in the SAICA premises at Bruma Lake in Johannesburg.

For more information on AAT(SA), call +27 11 621 6888 or visit www.aatsa.org.za.