For the last eight years, I have been developing and presenting seminars to help CPAs meet their state CPE requirements. The December 1998 article by Nita J. Clyde, "CPE Is Broke; Let's Fix It," ( JofA , page 77) was excellently done.
In the JofA letters column (Mar.99, page 84), a writer recommends that an exam be used to measure a CPA's competency. Testing is not the answer. As an approach it will accomplish only one thing—CPAs will learn how to pass tests rather than how to better serve their customers, clients or employers.
As brought out in Clyde's article, an outcomes-based system is preferred over the current input-based system. The examples given in the article under "What About Cheaters?" are so true. It can be frustrating to a seminar presenter to realize that people are there just to get the credits.
In my search for an instructional format that meets current state licensing board requirements while offering a real learning experience, I have developed an approach that participants have found beneficial because it is outcomes-based.
The program is called the Financial Roundtable and involves eight or more CPAs from companies in a similar industry. The roundtable has a broad topic such as financial reporting and decision making. (My own experiences have been mostly in the private/industrial accounting field, so I focus on that market.) Each participant is required to discuss one of the most significant achievements in his or her company on the selected subject matter. Then, one or two others put on the table a challenge or issue they are struggling with on the job. These become the case studies. Ultimately, an action plan is developed for those individuals to take back to their jobs or clients.
Since the participants come from similar industries, everything discussed becomes pertinent. The roundtable approach makes every CPA both teacher and learner.
By being exposed to what others in similar positions are doing, the CPAs can better understand what should go into their individual competency assessment.
The roundtable approach may not be the final answer, but it gets us closer to what we are trying to achieve with CPE requirements.
Robert Gianninoto, CPA
Trenton, New Jersey