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Diversity Pipeline Resources

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA

The AICPA and many state CPA societies have taken proactive approaches to helping CPA firms attract and recruit new accountants. The big picture is, of course, attracting more candidates to the profession—termed the “pipeline project” by the AICPA. Within this goal, however, is creating a diverse team. FastCompany.com ran an interesting article in May 2015 (Lydia Dishman, “Millennials Have a Different Definition of Diversity and Inclusion,” http://bit.ly/2uZioNC) which stated that blending different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives within a team is a key to overcoming challenges and meeting goals.

While striving for diversity of thought is a lofty goal, a more immediate challenge exists in the overall homogeneity of the profession, as well as the need for new CPAs to enter the pipeline. In a 2015 GoingConcern.com blog post, Leona May stated that the profession needs to reach younger and more heterogeneous students (“The Accounting Profession's Lack of Diversity Is a Rodney Dangerfield Problem,” http://bit.ly/2whFnrE). Practitioners need to perfect their elevator speeches about why being a CPA is the greatest profession ever and talk to every young person possible.

Small- to mid-sized firms can join this movement. One place to start looking for useful resources to bring in the next generation of accountants is the AICPA's Diversity & Inclusion webpage at http://bit.ly/2v8HXLM. The “Recruitment and Retention Toolkit”is a downloadable 36-page PDF booklet with several practical action steps (http://bit.ly/2fRV9CN). One suggestion is participation in networking activities outside of the workplace; the appendix provides an extensive list of diverse professional organizations. Participation by “non-diverse” professionals is strongly encouraged, and this author joined a new network while writing this column, hopefully setting a good example.

More future CPAs need to be exposed to accounting as a possible career path before they get to college, by which time it may be too late to reach them. One approach to mentoring high school students is the NYSSCPA's Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession (COAP) program (http://bit.ly/2uQfnTV). Two national organizations that offer opportunities for accounting professionals to interact with potential future accountants are the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) and the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA).

National Association of Black Accountants

NABA is a nonprofit membership organization of accounting, finance, and other business professionals, with an informative website at http://www.nabainc.org. Professional membership is open to certified accounting or finance professionals (such as CPAs) and high school and college students at a reduced rate. The “Why Accounting” webpage is a must-see for any CPAs who are looking to encourage young people to pursue accounting. It includes concise descriptions of several accounting fields and positions and explains that “accountants are always needed” (http://bit.ly/2wpAgVs).

NABA administers two programs to attract high school students to careers in accounting, finance, and business; CPAs can encourage students to participate in these activities where they are locally available. The Accounting Career Awareness Program (ACAP) is a one-week college experience hosted by local chapters at universities in 20 cities across the United States (http://bit.ly/2vQKcp0). Students attend classes on accounting and business careers, tour college campuses, and visit local companies and CPA firms. The Accounting Finance Pipeline Initiative (AFPI) is a twoor four-year high school program for inner city youth that teaches students about critical thinking, decision making, cooperation and communication, independent research, and saving and investing (http://bit.ly/2uZc9JM).

For students already in college, NABA offers national and regional scholarships (http://bit.ly/2wp2uQd), student chapters (http://bit.ly/2vQrPAB), a CPA-track annual Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop funded by the AICPA (http://bit.ly/2wYFx4u), and free first-year professional membership for graduating seniors (http://bit.ly/2fTBWQZ). NABA also hosts an annual convention (http://bit.ly/2uQc52W) and regional student conferences (http://bit.ly/2w9FQfe) that are open to members and employers. Several NABA local chapters participate in Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), which is a great way for CPA volunteers to meet the NABA students and members while using their skills to help their neighbors (http://bit.ly/2uZktsU).

NABA's Career Center allows job seekers to post their resumes, apply for jobs, and receive job alerts (http://bit.ly/2fRVzsO). Employers have several price rate choices, as well as the option to post digital videos (http://bit.ly/2uPLNy3). The Career Learning Center presents several brief videos on career coaching topics, such as behavioral interviewing, resume creation, and networking (http://bit.ly/2wpbzZw).

Association of Latino Professionals for America

ALPFA was established in Los Angeles in 1972 as the American Association of Hispanic Certified Public Accountants (AAHCPA). Its website at http://www.alpfa.org is a great source of information for CPAs looking for opportunities for their own careers or to recruit and mentor future CPAs. The organization has gone through several major changes since its founding; the AAHCPA adapted to include finance professionals, eventually merged with the National Hispanic Business Association (NHBA), and currently operates as ALPFA, Inc.

The website offers a 31-page PDF booklet, “The Value of ALPFA,” that presents an overview of its mission and activities (http://bit.ly/2w9gOwG). ALPFA also provides several opportunities for members to engage with communities and with each other. CPAs can interact with children and youth through the organization's partnership with Girl Scouts USA and Junior Achievement, which is a great chance to plant the seed early that accounting is a fantastic career.

ALPFA's annual convention includes professional development and workshops, networking, social events, and a full-day career fair. An even more cost-effective way for CPAs to meet ALPFA student members might be through the regional student symposiums, which include mentoring sessions and career fairs (http://bit.ly/2xbXRpS).

Diversity Reading

AICPA: Young Minority Influencer & Pipeline Research—Research Findings http://bit.ly/2ieh1ZT

Deloitte: The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion—the Millennial Influence http://bit.ly/2vQ5YZY

Grant Thornton: Women in Business—Turning Promise Into Practice http://bit.ly/2wp4kRf

Howard University: Attracting Underrepresented Minorities to the Accounting Profession—Insights into Diversifying the Talent Pipeline http://bit.ly/2vQdXWH

Although, like NABA, ALPFA's outreach focuses on large companies, the organization states that it sees its members as a family, which seems like a natural fit for small- to mid-sized firms. The association offers three levels of membership, starting with free (http://bit.ly/2vL0DEE). Employers can become involved in a variety of ways, including posting jobs and accessing resumes (http://bit.ly/2vLDhij). Students and new professionals have free access to ALPFA's Career Center (http://bit.ly/2uZdhNy), including resume writing and interviewing help, career fairs, and scholarships (http://bit.ly/2wY2vZx).

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Tex. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Advisory Board.

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