GET UP BY ANOTHER
A university degree is no longer the only way to a professional career for ambitious school leavers, writes Andrew Collier
HAVING spent longer than I care to think about writing for newspapers, I’m privileged to have worked alongside some truly gifted journalists. It’s a tough profession, with a lot of people jostling against each other to make names for themselves.
Increasingly over the last 38 years (yes, it’s been that long) I’ve found newsrooms being filled with graduates: indeed, I gather it’s now virtually impossible to gain entry without a degree.
So there are lots of bright young graduates, eager to learn, to please and to work every hour God sends. They are usually determined, sometimes shallow in character and on occasion of distinctly average ability.
My contemporaries, many now gone to the Great Newsroom In The Sky, came up the ranks straight from school, working their passage as copy boys or from the admin department.
A number, implausibly, came from the Clyde shipyards. They were often witty, cynical and were also among the greatest and most
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the global body for professional accountants, is one organisation which is committed to continuing to drive this approach forward. “We believe there should be no barriers to entry for those wishing to enter the profession,” says Dorothy Wood, Head of Education, ACCA UK.
“We are working with employers and other bodies to increase social mobility. We are also working to ensure that there are no glass ceilings which prevent medium to long term progression.”
Wood continues: “ACCA stands by its founding principles, established in 1904, to broaden access to accountancy. We still aim to provide opportunity and access to people of ability around the world and to support our members throughout their careers in accounting, business and finance.
“ACCA continues to believe that increased diversity and mobility in the UK will enhance business performance.”
Certainly the organisation practices what it preaches: Some 48%
‘WE BELIEVE INCREASED DIVERSITY AND MOBILITY IN THE UK WILL ENHANCE BUSINESS PERFORMANCE’
instinctively brilliant writers I have ever had the privilege to work alongside. I remain in awe of their talents.
There is, of course, a moral here. Despite the pressures of modern UK society, you don’t actually have to go to university to build a highly successful career.
Indeed, it’s even possible that the life experience and knowledge of work you pick up in an office rather than a classroom can be much more useful than a degree, as it gives you a head start on others who have delayed their entry by four years to get that precious piece of paper.
Accountancy and law are just two of the professions which now see the virtues of a school-to-workplace career pathway which avoids higher education altogether. It’s true that most do still look for graduates to make up the core of their recruitment programmes, but they are increasingly seeing that bright non-graduates can fit into their professional operations every bit as well. of ACCA’s UK students come to it via a non-graduate route. In addition, 48% of its UK student base is female.
The organisation sees non-graduate recruitment as a critical part of its strategy of encouraging social mobility – something which is established as one of its core values and which is shared these days right across the UK accountancy profession.
In 2011, it issued a report called Climbing The Ladder: ACCA and Social Mobility. This argued that widening access to the finance professions could only be achieved if all those involved in the process of qualifying professionals adopted values that truly broke down barriers to entry.
The spokesperson continues: “It’s well documented that many professions remain dominated by the middle classes. The Big Four and other leading accountancy firms have worked with the Social Mobility Foundation in previous years in order to address this imbalance.
“While there are disproportionate numbers of middle class students at universities, over the past 20 years entry and progression routes to accountancy have by contrast become much more flexible.”
ACCA is also involved in an initiative called Professions for Good. This was launched in the UK i n July 2011 and brings together a number of professional bodies in an effort to co-ordinate their activities in promoting the good that the professions offer to the economy and to wider society.
“This is an important project for us – one we have supported from the beginning with a strong investment of human and financial resources.
“ACCA works on promoting the role of the professions to the economy and society and we view initiatives that bring professional bodies together in promoting this goal as an essential campaign for us to be part of.”
Craig Vickery, who is Head of ACCA Scotland, points to a review of social mobility conducted for the UK government by the former labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn. This commends the accountancy profession f or “consciously constructed ladders of opportunity that allow nongraduates to enter and progress in a professional manner.”
Vickery continues: “This is good news, but my sense is that we cannot rest on our l aurels. Together with the medical, legal and journalism professions, we need to work collectively to share