In an effort to increase the employability of students, the University of Johannesburg's Department of Commercial Accounting is in partnership with the South African Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT [SA]) to prepare UJ's accounting graduates to exit the institution with workplace competencies and professional membership.
South Africa’s youth unemployment rate is a serious challenge. Some estimates indicate that young people under 35 are three times less likely to be employed than those over 35. Whilst the primary purpose of universities and colleges is to prepare students for a career, not all courses prepare them for the world of work they will face. Many young people are simply unable to enter the job market because they lack experience and skills.
Employers want graduates who can hit the ground running, and young people face the Catch-22 of ‘no experience, no job; no job, no experience’. In order to overcome this problem, tertiary education must help students bridge the gap between education and employment.
Christo Ackermann, head of the department at UJ, says that this programme greatly enhances UJ’s Diploma in Accountancy, as it underpins the department’s mission of providing relevant career focused programmes that equip and prepare graduates to service diverse communities through their state of work readiness.
Selecting top students
In 2015, the AAT (SA) gave the 135 3rd year students, studying towards UJ’s Diploma in Accountancy, the opportunity to write the Professional Test of Competency exam and qualify for silver AAT (SA) membership. To be allowed to do so, students first had to complete an accredited Diploma in Accounting and achieve an overall average of 60% for their final year modules. The Professional Test of Competency exam tests their knowledge of work covered both for the AAT (SA) professional qualification and for their Diploma.
At the end of March 2016, AAT (SA) congratulated 65 UJ graduates on passing the association’s Test of Professional Competence exam and proving that some university programmes do assist graduates actively to enter the job market with competencies that are desired in the workplace.
Speaking at the UJ Commercial Accounting department’s Merit and Award Ceremony, Nadine Kater, GM of AAT (SA), welcomed the new AAT (SA) members and put their achievement into perspective.
“In the first year, 1,000 students registered for the Diploma in Accountancy. By the third year, there were 700 students. When we approached UJ and joined in a partnership, we wanted to take students who had a pass mark of 60% in Financial Accounting 3 to embark on this programme. As a result, we registered 135 students on the AAT (SA) programme in 2015. Ninety-nine of you wrote the Accounting Technician Test of Professional Competence and today, we are pleased to welcome the 65 students who have proven that they can apply this theory in a practical way.’
Benefits of being a Silver status AAT (SA) member include:
- Having an internationally recognised level of competence as an accounting technician, which is widely sought after by firms such as MultiChoice, SARS and Deloitte
- Membership of a professional body that gives access to networking and professional development opportunities through continuing professional development support
- Ability to benefit from AAT’s support services, and access selected services from the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA)
Chantyl Mulder, SAICA’s senior executive for nation building, concludes, “Partnerships such as these are essential in helping accounting graduates make themselves more employable. As AAT (SA) members, these 65 graduates are now ahead of the game. They have the professional qualification, solid work experience and wide portfolio of skills needed to overcome the gap that exists between academic qualifications and the ability to put theory into practice.”
AAT (SA) is a unique partnership between the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT). As a professional body, it is dedicated to the education, development, regulation and support of accounting technicians in South Africa. It has a suite of three qualifications: firstly, the generic accounting qualifications whose graduates are found in various sectors of the economy and then the unique offering of customised local government and public sector accounting qualifications.