The recently approved CA2025 competency framework categorises competencies into three types: professional values and attitudes, enabling competencies or acumens, and technical competencies
What are professional values and attitudes?
Professional values and attitudes define professional behaviour and identify professional accountants as CAs(SA), AGAs(SA) and ATs(SA) (that is, as members and associates of the accounting profession referred to hereafter as CAs(SA)). CAs(SA) draw on their personal and professional values and their ability to act with honesty, integrity, accountability and trustworthiness to demonstrate moral and ethical behaviour in the business context and to protect the public interest. By doing more than adhering to the rules of professional conduct, CAs(SA) are required at all times to uphold ethical principles and conduct themselves professionally in a manner that exemplifies and enhances the reputation of the CA profession. In addition, as lifelong learners, CAs(SA) are required to maintain and develop their competence post qualification in order to adapt and work in an agile way to deal with complexities.
Having an attitude of being a life-long learner is therefore core to being a professional. CAs(SA) are expected to be lifelong learners who undertake the relevant continuing professional development activities to achieve competence for their post-qualification role. While a somewhat abstract concept for accountants who typically deal with numbers and facts, being a lifelong learner is really about a mind-set and state of mind which need to be embraced throughout one’s professional career.
In short, life-long learning refers to the process of self-initiated learning aimed at self-development and demonstrating an adaptive and agile mind set. This is first developed in the academic and training programme and is further developed post-qualification.
Lifelong learning is also about the development and acquisition of competencies after entry to the profession (post-qualification). It is not limited to demonstrating abilities in relation to responsible leadership or making impactful decisions while influencing others, but is likely to occur in many spheres of competence depending on the specific roles and responsibilities to which a CA is exposed. Professional competence needs to be maintained (by remaining abreast of changes in existing technical and enabling competencies) and developed (to incorporate new technical or enabling competencies or improve proficiency levels linking to technical and enabling competencies) in areas which relate to a particular field/role in which a CA is generally active after entering the profession. In order for these competencies to be effectively and appropriately maintained and developed, CAs(SA) need to embrace lifelong learning as a professional value and attitude.
Being a lifelong learner requires both self-development (the planning and management of personal development and an appreciation of how personal strengths and weaknesses may impact work, learning and goal attainment) and having an adaptive mind set and agility (taking initiative to improve performance and wellbeing by reviewing and reflecting on your work performance).
In addition to CAs(SA) being able to refine their reflective thinking, the most important aspect of being a lifelong learner means being able to identify and distinguish between the need to learn, unlearn and relearn, so as to adapt to changing practices, roles and work contexts.
Alvin Toffler said: ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those that cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.’
Why is being a lifelong learner important?
By some accounts, up to 90% of accountants will lose their jobs given the ongoing advances in technology! It is also reported that our children will hold between five and seven different careers over their lifetime. This indicates a need for ongoing reflection and change to the competencies we demonstrate as CAs(SA). In order for CAs(SA) to remain relevant in this constantly evolving world, it is critical that they are able to demonstrate the characteristics of lifelong learners.
Source: CA2025 Entry-level framework (SAICA 2021)
Mandi Olivier CA(SA), Senior Executive: Pre-qualification Professional Development at SAICA