Our firm found an excellent resource to identify conscientious workers who provide us with a rewarding and profitable experience: recruiting students from the academy of finance (AOF).
The AOF is an elective course of study for high school students exploring the broad world of finance. It is a member program of the National Academy Foundation (NAF), www.naf.org, a nonprofit educational organization based in New York City. The AOF was founded in 1982 by Sanford I. Weill, chairman and CEO of Citigroup, who also serves as the chairman of NAF’s board of directors. Currently there are 275 AOF locations nationally, with some 16,000 enrolled students.
Taking part in the AOF program doesn’t benefit just the practitioner, or your firm; it actually can benefit our entire profession. As it becomes harder to find qualified accounting graduates, practitioners need to reach out to the high schools and show students that accounting is a vibrant, exciting and profitable career.
A major component of the program is a six-week paid student summer internship between the junior and senior years. Our interns always have been bright, energetic and quick learners who sometimes have performed beyond the level of our new hires. They perform bank reconciliations, general ledger posting and analysis, audit fieldwork such as payroll and inventory observations and vouching and have prepared basic individual and corporate tax returns. The students are coached in how to dress for work and how to interact and communicate in a business environment. Based on their performance levels, they are even scheduled outside the office at various audit fieldwork and other on-site client assignments.
What is the cost/benefit? The AOF internship program leaves the rate of pay up to the employer. Typically AOF interns have earned between $2 to $4 per hour below what a typical college intern would make with firms in the same geographic area.
By participating in the AOF internship program, we were able to train a staff member at a much lower cost and are currently reaping the benefit of our investment. One high school intern who worked for us throughout her college career joined our firm. (We were able to out-recruit a national firm to hire her for a permanent position because of her positive experience with us.)
To get involved with the AOF program in your area, contact NAF and offer to act as host in a “job shadowing” or internship program. Or become a member of the program’s local advisory board. As a member you contribute to the program’s success by using your knowledge and resources. I have served as the chairperson of our local advisory board since its inception and have been rewarded by watching the growth and development of both students and the program.
Our advisory board meets about six times a year, usually before normal business hours. In addition the board meets with students during class time once or twice a year as a group, and most members do one formal class presentation a year. The time commitment for the most part is not great and—as you attend the ceremony for the graduates of the academy of finance—you will have a sense of accomplishment, a sense of fulfillment and the knowledge that you have helped provide to the students priceless experiences, as well as a clearer understanding of the unlimited opportunities in the accounting profession.
For more information and a list of local programs in your area, contact NAF at 212-635-2400 and press ext. 257 for Charlie Katz, national director for business partnerships, firstname.lastname@example.org .
—David Evangelista, CPA, Korn, Rosenbaum, Phillips & Jauntig, LLP, CPAs, Pomona, NY