The major hurdle that the accounting profession faces, along with other scarce-skill professions, is the low number of learners (just 12%) passing maths with marks above 60%. Despite this, the profession has been successful in sustaining its pipeline thanks, largely, to the efforts of the SAICA’s Thuthuka Education Upliftment Fun.
Lizanne Campbell (28) CA(SA), Manager at PwC South Africa’s Accounting Consulting Services, is proud to have been a part of Thuthuka’s school project success.
Campbell says she did not know much about the CA(SA) profession until she met a SAICA representative at a church career day in Tafelsig, Cape Town, in 2008. ‘His name was Edgar and he informed me about Thuthuka’s Western Cape school camp run by SAICA and the Department of Science and Technology. At the time, I was doing physics and accounting as some of the subjects that were a pre-requisite at the camp. I just wanted to improve my physics marks and that’s when I decided to attend the camp,’ she says.
She adds that she did not know anyone who was a CA(SA) and never knew much about the profession. ‘All I was really doing was getting good results in mathematics and accounting. The only thing I remember about the profession was my accounting teacher telling us that if we work hard we could become CAs(SA). I had no idea what exactly that meant, but I knew that with it came prestige as well as security for myself and my family.’
Campbell says that in her matric year, ‘I attended that camp to focus on my accounting class, and it was good. The camp made me aware of all the resources out there. Different people were coming to speak to us about their experiences. I remember a guest who did a speech related to “purpose” – it wasn’t about pushing you into a career, but why you are here and what you want to do. The camp was really helpful. It gave me direction. It gave me hope to change my life or do something with my life – thinking about what change I want to see in the world. It showed me that there are people like me who come from the same background and are trying to do something with their lives.’
After the camp, she applied for various bursaries and was finally accepted at both Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town (UCT). She initially chose to study at Stellenbosch after she was awarded a bursary by Thuthuka. However, after her grandfather became terminally ill with cancer, she decided to continue with her studies at UCT to be closer to home to spend time with her grandfather who was on his deathbed. ‘Changing universities meant that I had to forfeit the Thuthuka bursary. Fortunately, I was funded by PwC and NSFAS right through my Graduate Diploma in Accounting (GDA),’ Campbell adds.
Having seen the impact of the Thuthuka school camps, Campbell decided to volunteer as a camp leader in her third year of university. She wrote SAICA’s Initial Test of Competence (ITC) in January 2015 and started her training at PwC in February 2015. Two years later, she went on a long-term secondment at PwC in the UK and returned to South Africa in February this year as a qualified CA(SA).
Giving advice to learners considering becoming CAs(SA) Campbell says: ‘Read up or research as much as you can, think about what you’re good at and apply for as many bursaries as possible – especially Thuthuka. Look at location – find a university that has some type of support base, speak to someone who is or has been in the CA career stream and learn from their experiences. For example, UCT, Stellenbosch and the University of the Western Cape have Thuthuka tutoring support. The CA(SA) stream is tough, but certainly worth it. If you reach out to mentoring networks to give you tips and encourage you, it becomes easier.’
Campbell is proud to have convinced her brother to also pursue the CA(SA) profession. He is also a Thuthuka Bursary Fund beneficiary and will be writing his GDA this year. If all goes well, the Campbell family could add the second CA(SA) feather in their caps.
For detailed information about the impact of SAICA’s Thuthuka initiatives, read the Institute’s Nation Building Impact Report here.