Accountants Short on Numbers


Anyone working in recruitment couldn’t have not noticed the shortage of skilled candidates recently and this is especially true within the accountancy and finance sector. Indeed, this is not such a recent trend, it has been heading that way for several years and according to recruiters within the accountancy sector, this is due, in part at least, to limited training opportunities within the UK for the domestic workforce.

According to an article on, quoting REC Director of Policy, Tom Hadley: “Investment in training the domestic workforce is vital to the long-term health of the jobs market …”.

The reduced investment in training within accountancy – along with other sectors – can be traced back to the global credit crunch of 2007/08 and the ensuing recession. During this time, companies became nervous about the economic climate and one area where savings could be made was in the training budget and with the rise in unemployment, caused by the recession, those looking to retrain encountered less opportunities to do so, at a time when it was in fact imperative.

Accountancy practices are now offering more training opportunities but because of the gap following the recession, the pipeline of qualified accountants in the UK has been reduced to a ‘paltry dribble’ and we are still feeling the consequences of that today. Many practices offer full training packages and are way ahead of industry and commerce in this regard, providing training of a quality that often exceeds that within industry.

However, it might be that the government needs to give greater degree of tax incentives to enable practices and industry to train our domestic workforce and increase the dribble to constant flow.

The historic lack of training has meant that there are more accountancy vacancies than there are suitable candidates eligible to work in the UK and we are seeing high volumes of people from abroad applying for those roles. Unfortunately, non-EU candidates are up against the UK visa system and can generally only work for the top accountancy practices that have the licences to offer sponsorship to those with tier 2 visas.

We are constantly frustrated because we receive CVs from good candidates who we can’t put forward because of their visa status and instead, we advise them to apply direct to top 10 practices, which is their best hope of securing a role with sponsorship because the majority of recruitment for these practices is kept in-house. Why pay a recruitment fee when these firms are receiving high volumes of direct applications?

Whilst using accounting professionals from overseas can help to bridge the skills gap, training opportunities for the domestic workforce must be the way forward for the UK. This could come in the form of financial assistance and incentives for would-be accountants to gain ICAEW and ACCA qualifications.

I find it difficult to believe that the UK doesn’t have enough talented people with the ability and the desire to become accountants. With starting salaries increasing, because of the shortage, maybe a little assistance is all that is needed to direct people into areas that are experiencing a talent shortage and some help from the government could allow companies to have more disposable budget to invest in people for the UK’s economic future.

Read the full economia article here >>

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