From education to employment

Learners and employers are calling out for innovation in learning and development for the accountancy profession

Educators need to embrace rapid transformation and truly meet learners’ needs if they’re to be successful for the future.

Global analysis from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) reveals that educators are not fully meeting the needs of learners or employers when it comes to professional education for accountants and finance professionals.

A good learning and development programme needs to put learners’ characteristics and needs central to its design. But ACCA’s research finds that while educators recognise the importance of this, they struggle to reflect them in their programmes, with 39% saying the characteristics of their learners are too diverse for common principles to be included.

A surprising finding in the report Developing the skills of the sustainable business and finance professional is the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and gamification in L&D, with both learners and educators across all age ranges giving a low positive response rate to these as a way to develop a broad range of capabilities. This will, in part, be due to a lack of understanding of what gamification and AI are, and what they can achieve; as well as a fear among tutors that the technology will be complex or that it will make the tutor role redundant.

Sharon Machado, head of business reporting at ACCA and the report’s author comments: ‘The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2030, 90% of jobs will demand digital skills. So educators need to make data and digital central to their L&D programmes. Alongside this, Pearson has estimated that the total market for professional education is expected to grow to £7 trillion by 2030, again reflecting that demand will increase.

‘Opportunities therefore abound and that’s why we provide a six-point L&D model to help educators flourish and work with professional bodies to create the professionals of the future.’

As part of this research, ACCA asked learners and educators to identify the features of a good L&D system, resulting in six clear and interconnected themes:

  • Relevance: meeting learner and stakeholder needs
  • Reliability: delivering learning outcomes that are trusted irrespective of different learning approaches for a given capability or learner
  • Motivation: driving the achievement of the learning purpose and supporting lifelong learning
  • Person and people: placing learners and their tutors at the heart of learning and the learning approach, at an individual, cohort and community level
  • Digital and data: supporting the development of L&D strategy and its implementation across content, production, delivery and monitoring
  • Sustainability: business models employ an integrated approach to environmental, social and financial matters

Sharon Machado adds: ‘Learners should be seeking these six features and qualities in their L&D, and equally educators should be applying them too in developing, implementing, and monitoring their strategies. If educators do, they’ll be well placed to realise the economic opportunities associated with a growing education market and to respond to the vast amounts of regulation that applies to them and the accountancy profession.’

The research also asked educators and learners the best ways to develop core competencies and capabilities. For ethics, 61% of educators and 65% said work experience or simulations were most appropriate, with gamification seen as the least appropriate. For collaboration,. learning from peers and those with more advanced skills was seen as most important, at 77% for educators and 74% for learners.

Ways of learning were also analysed, with 58% of educators and learners saying online  learning is at least as good as in-person. Nigeria (56%), India (46%), and Pakistan (46%) rated online as better than in-person, compared to just 23% and 25% in China and the UK.

Sharon Machado concludes: ‘As a result of Covid-19, there’s an even stronger expectation that learning is a 24-hour business. This is a challenge for educators, with the need for continuous innovation to be core to their business strategies. Professional bodies like ACCA are part of this innovation too, and that’s why it is one of our values that drive all we do as an organisation to support educators and learners too.’

The report Developing the skills of the sustainable business and finance professional

can be accessed here:

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