New strategies to grow the profession’s pipeline

Hosted by Neil Amato

In the midst of the Great Resignation, organizations need continued vigilance when it comes to recruiting job candidates. As it relates to the hiring of CPAs, this episode touches on advice and a new program that can help businesses cast a wider net for talent.

Beth Berk, CPA, CGMA, writes in a recent Journal of Accountancy article that "hiring professionals need to go about their recruiting efforts differently than they did in years past." The article offers reminders and strategies for identifying accounting candidates.

And, there's a new program that can help organizations get a head start on linking up with candidates. Joanne Fiore, an AICPA & CIMA vice president, explains the benefits of the Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners program, an effort recently approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.

What you'll learn from this episode:

  • A summary of the advice from a recent article by CPA Beth Berk.
  • An explanation of the recently launched Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners program.
  • The four main components of the apprenticeship program.
  • An estimate of how long the apprenticeships last.
  • Some of the ways the apprenticeship program benefits employees and employers.

An overview of two recent Excel articles in the JofA's March issue

— To comment on this episode or to suggest an idea for another episode, contact Neil Amato at


Neil Amato: Welcome to the Journal of Accountancy podcast. This is your host, Neil Amato. The theme of this episode is "pipeline." In the middle of the Great Resignation, organizations need to rethink their hiring strategies and cast a wider net for candidates of all types, including the finance professional. We've got a recent JofA article and a recent interview I conducted on that topic. That's coming up after this word from our sponsor.

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Amato: Generally, after that introduction, we go straight into an interview. We're going to switch things up this time. I'm going to talk first about an article that published on March 22 on the Journal of Accountancy site by CPA and independent recruiter Beth Berk. The headline is "Finding 'untapped' talent pools of CPAs." And in the article is more advice for CPA-specific talent acquisition. Beth points out that a CPA with a less traditional career trajectory should not be ruled out just because of that trajectory.

Just because someone hasn't taken jobs with escalating responsibilities in every stop doesn't mean they wouldn't be a strong candidate. The article touches on how talent gets overlooked, how to reach the less traditional candidate, doing a review of your organization's culture, and determining must-have skills versus preferred ones. That article will be linked in the show notes for this episode, and we'll mention more JofA news on other topics later in the show.

But first is an interview about another way that some organizations can build their finance pipeline. That's the new apprenticeship program recently approved by the U.S. Department of Labor. The Registered Apprenticeship Program for Finance Business Partners is one path to increasing the pool of available candidates with benefits for the employee and employer alike.

Joining me for this segment of the Journal of Accountancy podcast is Joanne Fiore. Joanne is Vice President–Pipeline and Apprenticeships, CGMA Americas region, for the AICPA & CIMA. First, Joanne, thanks for being on the show and can you explain the topic that we're talking about, the registered apprenticeship program? What is it and how does it work?

Joanne Fiore: Well, thanks for the opportunity to talk about the registered apprenticeship program. Because it is so new, a lot of people don't know much about it. The registered apprenticeship is for finance business partners, and by registered, it means registered with the Department of Labor. We just launched it in November of last year, so, as I said, it's very new. It is the first, as a matter of fact, for finance and accounting professionals at this level. As with all apprenticeships registered, it has four main components.

The first is that it would have related instruction. And for that, we use the Finance Leadership Program (FLP). Second, it leads to a credential, in this case, the globally recognized CGMA credential. Third, it has on-the-job training provided by the employer, and four, mentorship. The way the apprenticeship works is that the employer selects and hires a candidate, who while working receives up-skilling with the Finance Leadership Program, the on-the-job training, and the mentoring, which brings the competencies to life. The apprenticeships last one to three years.

Amato: Who are the typical candidates who might benefit most from taking the apprenticeship route?

Fiore: Anyone on the finance and accounting team that needs upskilling would benefit from an apprenticeship. It can be positioned for those entering the workforce, those newly graduating, those switching roles within an organization, those leaving the military. Basically, an apprenticeship widens the aperture of the lens through which an organization can look for candidates. It basically increases the talent pool. Why? Because candidates don't need to have all the skills, all the experience, all the talent up front, because they gained some during the apprenticeship.

Amato: What are the advantages for employers who participate in the program?

Fiore: Well, there were many advantages, particularly in this tight labor market. Our registered apprenticeship is a career development tool, primarily, that helps a finance team upskill its talent. Second, as such, and because of that, they're recruitment tools, particularly for recruiting right out of school, which we're seeing more finance and accounting teams needing to do in this market.

And third, as I mentioned, because the apprenticeship provides some of the skills, experience, learning that a candidate needs, it increases the pool of candidates that the finance team can recruit from. So that means more diversity of candidates.

That's really significant and important. Lastly, because our apprenticeship is registered, there may be funding available from the federal, state, and local government.

Amato: Those are some of the benefits for the employers, what are some of the questions you're getting from them? What are their concerns?

Fiore: Well, because people are new to apprenticeships, they often ask about whether it's burdensome, whether there's a lot of paperwork or reporting involved. There's not. But in order to address that concern, the AICPA provides, free of charge, a concierge service. A concierge service is a professional apprenticeship administrative service that helps with registering your apprenticeship and administrating your apprenticeship, including any reporting aspects, any reporting that needs to get done. We also provide free access to a funding specialist, and our funding specialists will maximize your eligibility for funding, whether at the federal, state, or local level. And those are two wonderful benefits that really address the main question we get around apprenticeships.

Amato: We know apprenticeships are more common in other occupations. From those, what can be learned about apprenticeships?

Fiore: We get lots of information from the DOL, who closely monitors progress on apprenticeships. The statistics show number one that they are effective: They increase productivity, they enhance retention, and that just makes sense. You can imagine a program where you provide on-the-job training, a mentor,  and related instruction certainly would increase retention. Finally, statistics show that employers are satisfied with them and that they recommend apprenticeships to other employers.

Amato: Now, you mentioned that this program was just announced in November, so it's early in the process. We're recording March 11 of 2022. But what's been the response so far?

Fiore: We spent a lot of time just since November talking to many employers throughout the United States, many finance and accounting teams. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. And you would imagine so in this very tight labor market, with more finance teams looking to hire graduates, wanting to increase retention, wanting to upskill, wanting to ensure that their teams are diverse. We've had a tremendously positive reaction.

And many finance teams have talked about integrating the apprenticeship into their existing rotation programs, about their looking at community colleges for talent, and the need for more diverse talent. So it's just been a great response.

Amato: I know it is early and I know you can expect to be doing more as the months go on. Anything you'd like to add in closing, Joanne?

Fiore: Yes. In closing, what I would want people to know, the listeners to know, that we understand that apprenticeships are new in our profession, but it's such an exciting opportunity that they're worth taking a look at. Particularly if you're looking for an advantage in hiring and retention. If you want a more diverse pool of candidates to consider, to hire from, particularly in this tight labor market, if you want and need to upskill your finance team, it's really well worth your time to consider our Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners.

Amato: Thanks again to Joanne Fiore for her time on the podcast. Each monthly issue of the Journal of Accountancy has standing features, including the popular Technology Q&A section. That Q&A for the March issue features education on several topics, including this headline from the article written by CPA Kelly Williams. The headline is "Creating a drop-down list in Excel." Seems simple but also useful. Kelly Williams has also written on the topic of combining formulas and text in the same cell in Excel. So you've got plenty of Excel knowledge you can gain by visiting the Journal of Accountancy website and going to the Magazine tab.

Also, writer Hannah Pitstick has an article on five pandemic lessons and how to apply them to your career. It explores those topics with multiple CPAs and other professionals, reminding readers you are more adaptable than you thought, the profession is evolving faster than ever, it could be time to reassess your priorities. Those are some of the subheads in the article, which also touches on the notion that so-called "business as usual" may not be the best way forward. The article focuses as well on the importance of vulnerability and empathy, a topic that March Last Word subject Steven Harris discussed with me on our previous episode.

For the content mentioned, be sure to check out the JofA episode page for all the hyperlinks.That's our show for Thursday, March 24. Thanks for listening to the Journal of Accountancy podcast.