A univer­sity de­gree is no longer the only way to a pro­fes­sional ca­reer for am­bi­tious school leavers, writes An­drew Col­lier

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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%


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

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