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COAP 2019: Building the Pipeline

Ruth Singleton
Published Date:
Sep 20, 2019

COAP Syracuse COAP Syracuse at SUNY Oswego

This year, at three New York state college campuses in late June/early July, high school students of color attended multiday immersion programs introducing them to accounting, courtesy of the Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession (COAP) program. Established more than 30 years ago, COAP is administered by The Moynihan Scholarship Fund, an affiliate of the NYSSCPA. The program teaches students that an accounting background can lead to a host of business careers.

The COAP locations this year were Adelphi University in Garden City,  SUNY Oswego and Westchester Community College in White Plains.

As part of COAP, students took field trips to accounting firms and conversed with CPAs at their offices. They also attended talks presented by CPAs in industry, education and government. The students learned basic accounting concepts, along with overviews of cost accounting, forensic accounting and technology in business and accounting. The COAP programs also taught the students softer skills to help them get ahead in the business world. For example, students at the Adelphi location took golfing lessons. Classes covered dressing for success, interviewing skills, résumé writing, public speaking and networking. In addition, the programs featured team-building exercises and general discussions about career opportunities.

“COAP’s goal from day one has been to increase diversity in the accounting profession,” said Rumbi Bwerinofa-Petrozzello, an NYSSCPA director-at-large and the immediate past chair of its Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “What COAP is aiming to do is increase the market of accounting graduates who can then be hired.” She noted that, according to the AICPA’s report, 2019 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits, only 2 percent of CPAs at accounting firms are African-American, and only 4 percent are Hispanic. “If we get a lot more students of color interested, it will increase the numbers,” she said.

Bwerinofa-Petrozzello also mentioned an observation made by Alfonzo D. Alexander, the chief ethics and diversity officer at the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), about how communities of color tend to lack any exposure to the accounting profession. Alexander noted that accounting is generational profession, and that African-Americans and Hispanics have traditionally not been familiar with the profession because they don’t have family members who are CPAs.

“Because of the lack of generations of CPAs of color,” said Bwerinofa-Petrozzello, “COAP is essentially stepping into the role of … that family member and showing the students all the great things that one can do. And that’s one way to increase the diversity in the profession.”

NYSSCPA Past President J. Michael Kirkland, who spoke to students at the Westchester Community College COAP program this year, stressed the importance of COAP to the accounting profession as a whole. “My view of it is that it is almost self-serving,” said Kirkland, the current president-elect on The Moynihan Scholarship Fund board of trustees. “It’s in the interest of this profession to reach out to communities that we haven’t in the past—not only that they might consider accounting as a career, but also that they’re aware of what a CPA can do in their life. … We’re losing an untapped market when we don’t tap into this community. African-American women are the fastest demographic to start small businesses We want to make people aware of this career, that they choose us as their trusted professional. … COAP is about education, information, and it’s self-serving.”

Students at this year’s COAP programs described their experiences with great enthusiasm, and some reported that they were seriously considering careers in accounting. Tabatha Roman Pizarro, who attended the program at Adelphi, said, “These past five days were amazing, and I want to give back to the COAP program. Thanks to this program, I have decided to pursue accounting, but as a teacher. … This was an amazing opportunity.”

For more information about the COAP programs, click here.

Click here to see more of the latest news from the NYSSCPA.