National Pipeline Advisory Group Addresses Six Themes in Draft Strategy Report

The National Pipeline Advisory Group (NPAG), convened by the AICPA last year to help shape a profession-wide strategy to tackle the shrinking talent pool, has released its draft report.

The report explores the latest pipeline data, root causes of the profession’s attrition and potential solutions. NPAG chair Lexy Kessler noted in the report, “The dearth of accounting professionals expands beyond labor issues. There is profession-wide concern that the shortage is playing a role in financial reporting delays and challenges across U.S. businesses, an alarming fact that increases the urgency for action.”

Proposed recommendations are organized into six themes.

Telling a more compelling story about careers in accounting

“To move the needle, let’s all put some muscle behind a grassroots effort to convey the powerful potential of accounting careers,” the executive summary said.

Creating a more engaging college experience for accounting majors and potential majors

NPAG recommends reconsidering what is taught in principles of accounting courses and when; supporting students as they progress with more challenging work; offering mentors in the classroom; and harnessing technology “to bring the accounting material to life.”

Reducing the time and cost of education

In what is one of the more controversial issues in the pipeline crisis, NPAG addressed the time and financial investment needed to complete 150 credit hours, an additional year of education, to sit for the CPA exam.

NPAG recommends:

  • Experiential learning that earns college credits.
  • Experiential learning “off the transcript.”
  • “Creating a competency-based licensure model that is neither based on university credit hours nor experience time.” Under this long-term model, the report said, competencies could be gained through traditional education, learning delivered by employers, or through self-study or do-it-yourself learning options. “NPAG envisions that many people employed within the accounting and finance professions who may not have a four-year degree or have completed the additional 30 hours of education yet have developed a deep expertise through their work experience, may find a way to CPA under this flexible, and for some, more affordable, competency concept.” Passing the CPA Exam would still be required as well managing potential disruption to CPA practice mobility. “Today’s existing pathways would remain, and candidates and employers could choose which approach will work best for them.”

Growing support for CPA exam candidates

NPAG recommends addressing the cost of the exam, adding flexibility to the timeframe in which the exam could be taken, simplifying the application and eligibility process, and reworking the content or format of the exam.

Expanding access for underrepresented groups

“It’s critical that the accounting profession reflect the makeup of the U.S. population. Getting there will take building interest in accounting careers among underrepresented populations,” the report said.

Transforming employer cultures and business models

“Simply put, employers need to make workloads more manageable, work more interesting and advancement opportunities and rewards clearer.”

In addition to conducting a comprehensive review of existing research, NPAG collected insights from a national pipeline survey, focus groups with state societies and firms, and discussions with professional and regulatory bodies. More than 7,800 students and accounting professionals took a national survey, and more than 1,600 people participated in the focus groups.

The AICPA, in a written statement responding to the report, said, “The board continues to urge diligence to minimize any impact on CPA mobility, an interwoven system of state laws that allow CPAs to practice outside their home jurisdiction without having to apply for additional licenses or face additional administrative burdens or fees. Minimizing or eliminating those disruptions is key.”

In addition, “We hope all stakeholders in the profession will seize on opportunities that will make a difference. A sustainable pipeline of talent will require building more attractive workplaces in all firms and finance departments, making education highly engaging, supportive and accessible to a range of students, and collectively doing more to communicate the benefits of accounting careers in ways that improve accounting’s image.”

A final report is expected in July. In the meantime, NPAG encourages the profession to take the Pipeline Pledge – an individual commitment to participate in two activities that have the potential to influence and grow the talent pool. Activities could include visiting a local middle school, participating in a high school career fair, hosting a networking event for accounting majors, or mentoring a CPA candidate through the licensure process or their first year in the workplace.

Read the executive summary

Read the draft report


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