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How Industry Associations Can Draw the Map for their Profession, and Where Higher Ed Fits In

The EvoLLLution | How Industry Associations Can Draw the Map for their Profession, and Where Higher Ed Fits In
Every industry is changing incredibly rapidly, creating significant need for flexible learning opportunities designed to keep professionals up-to-date and productive in their careers.

For Chartered Professional Accountants (CPAs), the knowledge, skills and abilities required to succeed and advance are shifting. CPA Canada—the national organization representing Canadian CPAs—is working to clarify demands for institutions that are responsible for delivering professional development in this space. In this interview, Jane Bowen reflects on the role of the CPA Competency Map in setting standards for CPAs in the modern era and discusses the role postsecondary institutions can play in helping professionals meet these expectations.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): What is the CPA Canada Competency Map and how regularly is it revised?

Jane Bowen (JB): The CPA Competency Map lays the foundation for the CPA certification program and describes the knowledge, skills and competencies required for an individual to become a Canadian CPA.

The Competency Map needs to be reviewed and revised each year, with the most recent revision released in December 2018 and the next version due by December 2019. The Competency Map Committee (CMC) works on the revisions throughout the year. This process involves an outreach to the stakeholders for the identification of suggested changes, as well as an ongoing review of the current technical standards and expectations from other international accounting bodies to ensure any necessary updates are made. The CMC also monitors any changes to international education standards for professional accountants.

Evo: What role does the Competency Map play in ensuring CPAs are prepared for the demands of their profession?

JB: The map must recognize the many career paths that are available throughout a CPA’s career, whether in Canada or internationally. Therefore, the map must describe the entry-level competencies and set the foundations for a variety of careers. The enabling competencies help students in the CPA program prepare for a successful career and include competencies related to ethics, professional skepticism and continuous learning. These competencies are critical to success as a Chartered Professional Accountant.

Even with the technology changes facing the business world, highly qualified professionals in the accounting, business and finance field will always be in demand. The map sets the expectations for an entry-level CPA to ensure the candidates can progress to meet Canadian and international market needs, while preparing them to continually learn and grow throughout their professional career.

The public expects CPAs to have the necessary technical and professional enabling competencies to protect their interests. Employers expect CPAs to have strong technical and professional skills. That is a given. But, they also expect CPAs to be business problem solvers with knowledge beyond the technical areas of accounting, audit and tax.

In addition to the call for strong technical knowledge, the map calls for candidates for the profession to have a well-developed integrative problem-solving capability.

Evo: Why is ongoing professional development so important for CPAs?

JB: The requirement to engage in ongoing professional development is an important enabling competency emphasized in the map. Enabling competencies allow a CPA to function as a competent professional in an increasingly complex and demanding environment.

Moreover, ongoing professional development is important because the world is constantly changing. Technology is transforming the way business is conducted and CPAs are committed to ongoing professional development to not only keep pace, but to also be directly involved in implementing those changes.

Evo: How can colleges and universities stay involved with CPA Canada to help learners prepare for successful careers as CPAs?

JB: We call colleges and universities PSIs, which is short for postsecondary institutions. They are valued partners for CPA Canada, as well as for our provincial and regional CPA bodies, in many different ways. They continue to be fully involved in developing the map and fine-tuning the CPA education program. For example, the CMC has representatives from different PSIs, who work together with representatives from CPA Canada and the provincial and regional accounting bodies to develop curriculum and share ideas on what can be accomplished.

The CPA profession also supports the Canadian Accounting Academic Association (CAAA) as a sponsor at their annual conference and the PSIs can participate by attending that conference.

There are a number of other ways PSIs stay involved.

First, there’s active engagement. For the past few years, I, along with staff of CPA Canada, have attended the CAAA conference and hosted sessions to work with the representatives from PSIs to discuss changes to the CPA Competency Map. PSIs can also take part in symposia held at the provincial level and gain access to research funding from the profession.

Representatives from PSIs can also volunteer for CPA Canada and provincial and regional committees, or take part in the development and delivery of the materials included in the CPA certification process. A recent example was the increased emphasis on data analytics added to the map, which had CPA Canada sharing some of the newly developed teaching material with the PSIs.

What’s more, upon request, our organization is happy to send guest speakers to college and university campuses to spread the word about changes to the map and how that affects their accounting programs. Of course, PSI faculty can also stay informed by monitoring the activities of the CMC and the profession through various social medias by, for example, following CPA Canada on LinkedIn. Faculty should take advantage of webinars and symposia run jointly with a specific PSIs, which are provided at no cost to participants. To this end, faculty who are involved in relevant research are always invited to approach CPA Canada and the provincial or regional bodies about avenues to share their findings.

The PSIs and the profession share a commitment to ensuring our CPA students are prepared to hit the ground running and succeed in their CPA careers. That partnership has been a key to the success of our profession in the past and will continue to be vital for years to come.

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