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School of Accounting

SAICA trainees are required to develop their Professional and Technical skills over the three years of their training contract. Serving as an AT contributes greatly towards the development of both of these skill sets. The extract below presents a synopsis thereof [taken from the document entitled “The SAICA Academic Traineeship Programme – Questions frequently asked by employer firms”, prepared by Prof SPJ von Wielligh (Aug 2008)].

1. Professional skills

The table below lists the eighteen professional skills outcomes for which a trainee accountant must achieve a satisfactory rating over the entire three year training contract period (according to the Development Needs Analysis (DNA) form used by firms in the periodic performance evaluations of their trainees), with one or two examples of how each is addressed in the year of Academic Traineeship. The examples are provided only as an indication of how the Academic Traineeship Programme achieves the outcome and is by no means intended to be a comprehensive list of examples. 

 

Professional skills outcomes

Examples

1

Working with others/management of conflict

ATs work in a team with other ATs and with other academics in the faculty. This is particularly challenging for ATs as they now become colleagues of the academics who lectured them in the prior year.

2

Diversity issues

ATs are part of the diverse teams in the academic department in which they work. They also deal with cultural and other types of diversity in their interaction with students in consultations and tutorials.

3

Negotiation of acceptable solutions

Although ATs plan their own lectures, lecture material etc., they have to meet the requirements of their superior (e.g. the coordinator of the module(s) that the AT is assigned to). This often leads to the parties having to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution.

4

Teamwork

ATs work in a team with other ATs and with other academics in the School of Accounting.

5

Presentation of views

The nature of the lecturing and tutoring tasks provides ATs with extensive experience in presentation skills (probably significantly more so than other trainees would experience, and at higher levels).

6

Effective listening and reading

In the preparation of their lecture material and their research tasks, ATs do extensive reading and have extensive discussions with others.

7

Obtain, locate, organise and understand information

The research tasks of ATs expose them to knowledge collection and management to a larger extent than other trainees, and at higher levels.

8

Critical analysis and reasoning

Research tasks, lecturing tasks and assessment tasks of ATs expose them to critical analysis and reasoning and being able to communicate these both verbally and in writing.

9

Identification and solution of unstructured problems

In-lecture situations and student consultations to which ATs are exposed on a continuous basis provide them with ample experience of this nature.

10

Self-management

ATs have to plan and prepare their own lecture material, be available for student consultations and tutorials and perform various other tasks in the relatively ‘free’ academic environment, which requires good self-management skills.

11

Initiative, influence and self-learning

The preparation of lecture material and the research tasks of ATs expose them to these skills to a significant extent.

12

Prioritising (within deadlines)

ATs have to plan and prepare their own lecture material, be available for student consultations and tutorials and perform various other tasks in the relatively ‘free’ academic environment, which requires good time management and prioritising skills.

13

Adaptability

ATs often work with different superiors in the academic environment (as is the case in business). This requires adaptability.

14

Planning, project management and people management

ATs have to plan and prepare their own lecture material, be available for student consultations and tutorials and perform various other tasks in the relatively ‘free’ academic environment, which requires good self-management skills, prioritising skills and good planning and project management skills. These skills are also required for their research tasks.

15

Delegation

Not relevant at first year trainee level.

16

Coaching and mentorship

In student consultations, ATs act as coaches and mentors for students.

17

Leadership

Not relevant at first year trainee level.

18

Broad business outlook/political awareness/global perspective

Lecturing and research tasks expose ATs to these skills in a limited manner.

It is clear from the table that ATs are exposed to all, if not more than, the professional skills outcomes to which other first year trainees are exposed.  In addition, ATs are probably exposed to a number of these skills at a higher level than other first year trainees, from which firms would be able to benefit once they join at the beginning of their second year of traineeship.

2. Technical skills

The technical skills and benefits that ATs experience in the academic environment are listed below:

  • Extensive written and verbal communication skills are developed through the lecturing, tutoring and research tasks of ATs. Most trainee accountants only become proficient in these skills later in their training contracts.
  • Critical analysis of technical material and data, and logical reasoning in the explanation and presentation thereof to others. Most trainee accountants only become proficient in these skills later in their training contracts.
  • Research skills in accountancy related fields, which is valuable to audit teams and technical departments of firms.
  • The ability to explain difficult technical concepts in multiple ways in order to ensure the entire audience understands them. This skill combined with verbal presentation skills mentioned above, creates the unique opportunity for the firm to utilise ATs as presenters for technical training courses – generally a scarce skill.
  • Ability to plan a project properly, which is learnt through ATs having to take responsibility for the preparation of their own lectures and lecture material for a course or courses. This skill is similar in some respects to planning an audit engagement, to which many first year trainees are not exposed at all.
  • Academic trainees are also usually required to spend their time on one or more of the core technical areas (financial accounting, auditing, management accounting & finance and tax) and they therefore have the opportunity to become extremely technically proficient in that particular area.