Pupils Need to Turn to Accountancy to Build Solid Careers

The South African Institute of Professional Accountants has urged school children to consider accountancy as a career opportunity-and a way of contributing to solving the unemployment crisis in South Africa.

In his State of the Nation address this year, President Zuma declared 2011 to be a year of job creation in order to provide the foundation to helping the country overcome its many challenges.

"Pupils still at school have a real role to play in helping to create an economy that creates jobs-by themselves choosing a career path that supports greater economic activity," says Shirley Olsen, chairperson of the South African Institute of Professional Accountants' National Accounting Olympiad committee. "It's commonly accepted around the world that there is a drastic shortage of accounting skills, and South Africa is particularly hard hit-the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) estimates that we have a current shortfall of 20 000 accountants. This is devastating because these are skills that are essential for the economy to function well and, even more importantly, to grow.

"By choosing to become professional accountants, school pupils are taking a decision not only about their own careers but about being able to enable a vibrant, expanding economy-that is, one that will create the new jobs we need."

In order to qualify for a career in accountancy, pupils need to matriculate in maths and not switch to maths literacy. Says Olsen, "The numbers of students taking maths to Grade 12 dropped by almost 4 000 to 26 304 in 2010-denying those students a career in accounting and hamstringing the economy."

A learnership in professional accountancy over three years is an attractive option because it means the candidate can be earning at the same time.

"This is a tremendous advantage for many students who simply don't have the resources for full-time postgraduate study," notes Olsen. "This is clearly a major plus when one thinks about providing ways for previously disadvantaged individuals to enter the mainstream economy-especially given the dire shortage of black accountants. But you need Grade 12 maths to open up that opportunity!"

As part of its drive to build awareness of accountancy as an attractive career option, and to persuade pupils to continue with maths, SAIPA runs an annual National Accounting Olympiad. This year's event recently concluded.

Joint winners were Muhammed Akoob from Raucall Metropolitan and Michael Gustavo from St David Marist Inanda. Second prize was won by Leon Ohene-Adu from Krugersdorp High School and third by Aubrey Mabeso from Dendron High and Michal van der Walt from Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool. Three of the schools represented were Dinaledi schools, proof that the National Strategy for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education may be starting to work.

"Congratulations to the winners and their schools..now we urge you to consider accountancy as a career option," concludes Olsen. "And don't forget to convince your classmates to do the same."