In our August 2008 edition, I outlined the process being followed to review the CA(SA) qualification process consistently to ensure maintenance of the standards we have grown so accustomed to. Much progress has been made since that date and I thought it important to remind members of where we are headed with the qualification process and specifically as regards progress made with the training component of that process.
The qualification review process commenced with the articulation of what we refer to as the competency framework. This framework identifies what competencies an entry level Chartered Accountant should possess. The framework informs the content of required learning both academically and during ‘on the job’ training. The framework was developed during 2008 and published for member comment early in 2009. We received constructive feedback from members across the country and have incorporated much of the comment into the final framework.
I implore all members to continue to participate in reviewing and further developing the document. The key to maintaining the standard of the qualification is the commitment of holders of the designation to continued review and maintenance. The global and local economy has evolved and continues to evolve at a frightening pace – we must ensure that we continue to remain relevant to the markets we serve. Remaining relevant will depend on the pace at which we are able to adapt to continued changes in markets and market forces. For this we are entirely dependent on continued feedback from members, from employers of Chartered Accountants and other stakeholders.
A reminder too that relevance is not a term we use only when discussing pre-qualification but also applies to qualified Chartered Accountants. I have previously articulated the need for all professionals, regardless of the industry or role they find themselves in, to remain relevant, through a commitment to lifelong learning or Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
Continuing Professional Development is a state of mind that requires commitment to upholding the standards of qualification as well as continued enhancement and development of existing and new competencies and skills.
SAICA consulted intensively in 2008 with members and other affected stakeholders, outlining changes to its education and training programmes for prospective Chartered Accountants. The academic component of the qualification process will remain largely unchanged in the short term apart from a decision to move Part I of the qualifying examination from March to January effective 2010. We consulted widely before taking this decision. There are also continued efforts to ensure the relevance of the content of the academic programme while managing and if possible reducing the volume of material covered in the academic programme.
The training component will, however, change markedly. We are intent on developing an on-the-job training programme that will cover the learning requirements outlined in the competency framework. This includes more focus on softer skills, strategy and technology as a common requirement for all trainees, regardless of the environment in which the individual chooses to train. This increased consistency sees the distinction between TIPP (Training inside Public Practice) and TOPP (Training outside Public Practice) fall away. To reiterate, this distinction disappears as we bring consistency across the training programme. All trainees will have to achieve ADVANCED EXPERIENCE (enough time to achieve a comprehensive understanding and application of the concepts and techniques with demonstrated competence in complex situations or environments) in common compulsory areas and in at least one elective area. All trainees will also have to achieve BASIC EXPERIENCE (enough time to achieve a general awareness of the vocabulary and related concepts of the field with demonstrated competence in simple, uncomplicated situations) in remaining residual areas.
This is consistent with the vision we have for CAs(SA) as business leaders. A leader must demonstrate strong abilities in various areas other than just technical strength. The new training model is geared at delivering more consistently a wider bouquet of core competencies and skills whilst still delivering individuals with extreme technical competence.
Many members have commented that it appears as if SAICA has taken a conscious decision to focus no longer on training prospective auditors. Nothing could be further from the truth. SAICA will continue to deliver CAs(SA) many of whom will practise as qualified auditors. The new training model will still allow for individuals wanting to go the auditing route to go the auditing route. In addition, it will allow individuals who want to place emphasis on other areas, should audit not be their preferred choice, to still qualify as CAs(SA) but through emphasis on other areas, such as taxation, internal audit, etc.
This kind of flexibility has many benefits. First and foremost, it will assist greatly in delivering more consistent knowledge and skills regardless of where an individual chooses to train. Second, it allows for an increased number of organisations to act as training grounds. Third, as generations evolve, and new generations look for flexibility and choice, this model allows for increased flexibility and choice for those entering the job market, without compromising in any way on the quality and standard of the training provided.
Nazeer Wadee CA(SA), is Chief Operations Officer, SAICA.