Unearthing talent: Embracing the ‘era of professional apprentices’

Hosted by Neil Amato

About a year ago, the AICPA announced a new route to obtaining the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation. The path is an apprenticeship program that, earlier this week, welcomed the first three companies as official partners in the program. The Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners program was part of the festivities in Chicago at the kickoff of National Apprenticeship Week.

Tom Hood, CPA/CITP, CGMA, executive vice president–Business Engagement & Growth at the AICPA, is the guest on this edition of the Journal of Accountancy podcast to talk more about the program and where it's headed.

Here's the Journal of Accountancy's article on the day the U.S. Department of Labor and the AICPA announced the signing of the first three companies to the program.

What you'll learn from this episode:

  • Tom Hood's description of Monday's kickoff to National Apprenticeship Week in Chicago.
  • The first three companies that have agreed to become part of the Registered Apprenticeship for Finance Business Partners program.
  • The different apprenticeship paths available in the program.
  • What's on the horizon for the program, and why there's a talent tie-in between apprenticeships and a top concern of finance executives.

Play the episode below or read the edited transcript:


— To comment on this episode or to suggest an idea for another episode, contact Neil Amato at Neil.Amato@aicpa-cima.com.


Neil Amato: The kickoff to National Apprenticeship Week in Chicago had a distinct finance flavor, and my colleague Tom Hood is going to explain more about that on this episode of the Journal of Accountancy podcast. This is Neil Amato with the JofA, and you'll hear the conversation with Tom on the new Registered Apprenticeship Program, the momentum it's generating, the new companies taking part, and more after this word from our sponsor.

Amato: Welcome back to my guest, Tom Hood. It's a name you all should know by now if you're a regular listener of the Journal of Accountancy podcast. When we last talked over the summer, we focused on future of finance topics. I called it our midsummer update. I guess it's now the pre-Thanksgiving update, and today the focus is the Registered Apprenticeship Program for Finance Business Partners. It's been a big week already for that program. We're recording on Tuesday, November 15. Tell me I guess what Monday was about and what it means for the program going forward.

Tom Hood: Neil, It's great to be back on the show with you as always, and it was an incredible day, I will say, way beyond what I originally thought. This was the kickoff of National Apprenticeship Week, which is this entire week, and when we had gotten our registered apprenticeship about a year ago, we had it filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, and that really kicked it off. So we've been busy working on what it means to implement and beginning to try to track down employers. This was actually a chance where we had three new employers who now signed up apprenticeships in their corporates, and we wanted to do a signing ceremony with the Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.

 Originally, we were invited to D.C., and then quickly it pivoted, and then we were suddenly invited to Chicago to be part of this even bigger ceremony led by Aon at their world headquarters in Chicago in conjunction with the Chicago Apprenticeship Network, which they helped form, as well as the Business Roundtable, which is a group of really large corporate CEOs. And together they hosted actually the White House and three Cabinet secretaries with a panel of apprentices, and we were featured as one of the three new innovative apprenticeships for the year by the Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. It was incredible.

Amato: Now tell me again for those who haven't seen our coverage, who were the three companies that signed on, on Monday?

Hood: The three companies were Liberty Bank out of Connecticut, HP, and Aon. Really good, different industries, different types of companies, but pretty well-known brands. And then to be at this, we were in the front row looking at the stage where the first lady came in to speak about the power of apprentices and why it's an important element of their agenda, and then they had secretary of Labor, secretary of Commerce, and the secretary of Education. Why that was significant, Neil, is when we're actually working in the field with these apprentices, it is about building a network and a partnership between business or commerce, employees or labor, and education, community colleges and four-year colleges, and then, obviously, our CGMA Finance Leadership Program, which is a required technical education.

It's symbolic of what needs to happen, and I thought it was pretty powerful that the Biden administration has literally tasked these three agencies with working together to increase America's job readiness and workforce. In this era of professional apprentices, that was cool because, when anyone hears "apprentice," they think about a concrete worker or a construction person. This is an era of professional apprentices, so we were there with two others. McDonald's is launching a cyber apprenticeship for their global headquarters, which happens to be in Chicago, and then there was another guy there representing the Industrial Automation and Cybersecurity for America Foundation, John Tucker. It was two cyber apprentices and then finance and accounting, which was ours, and we got called out from the stage by the secretary, and they named our three employers.

Amato: That had to be a thrilling moment. I want to go back to the Liberty Bank example. Paul Young who is I guess the VP of finance or senior VP of finance and CFO at the bank. He's mentioned the quote "Great Eight," which is the eight employees with Liberty Bank that are in the process of upskilling through this program, but where I'm going with that is that's just one pathway for using the program as I understand it. So what are some of the other ways that maybe companies out there can approach apprenticeships now and in the future?

Hood: This apprenticeship has effectively three levels or pathways. You could start actually in a junior or community college like really almost right out of high school and begin your initial education and then go into the CGMA Essentials course and then move into operational level, up to management, to the strategic level. You could end up with a credential, you would earn the CGMA credential, which is global, and you would earn the Department of Labor certificate as a finance business partner. Now that means you could literally go on a two-year community college and into the CGMA and come out in five years.

Whereas, if you went a traditional four-year college, you would have to go in for four and then probably take two more years, so you'd be six years out. You can see how you have different pathways here. And then the third level, Neil, in fact someone asked us about this on a LinkedIn Live we did today. We're actually seeing people, and I think Paul's doing a few of these, upskilling even CPAs in their finance team who need the heavy strategic and digital and business domain areas of the CGMA so they could actually be upskilled as an apprentice even already moving up in their career, but they could actually get that from that perspective. You could start out literally bringing someone in at a junior college. That's where we get to the equity and diversity level. You'd go four-year traditional, and you can upscale your existing teams.

Amato: Just thinking about that. But you can get people as young as teenagers to even people into their 30s. It depends on what the companies want. There's a wide range to get people into this apprenticeship program, a lot of paths.

Hood: One quick thing, Neil, that both Paul and a couple others have talked about is they're looking at other jobs in their business that might get automated. For instance, in banking, tellers are more and more getting automated like entry-level accounting is. What he said is what if I could take something that's been with us 20 years as a teller — they know the company they know the business — and I could get them through an apprentice to get this new skill and join our finance team. Wouldn't that be incredible?

I heard one that was a food processor who said we're automating a lot of the food-processing manufacturer if you will or the processing side. What if I could take a plant manager who knows the business inside out and I can upskill him through this program? That's a whole other level that's possible, and people are starting to think that way now instead of just throwing people away if you will by laying them off when they've got automated or replaced by new processes. They could actually reenter the job market in a whole different career.

Amato: That's a really good point. Can you give us a glimpse into what's next for the program?

Hood: Well, I think what's next — and we've seen this with most of these programs — is to really scale it and have an impact. I think what we're trying to do is get employers to think differently and creative, so they might start to do some of these HBCU work or start to make an impact in offering this kind of a program, a pathway for people coming out of high school or in the early stages of junior college, and giving people more opportunity.

In fact, one of our members who is from the U.K., when she went through this as a teenager, she called it her passport out of poverty. She said, if it weren't for this apprenticeship program, which was in the U.K. at the time, she said I never would have. She's now on the board of directors of AICPA & CIMA. She's a leading transformation consultant and employed in Australia in a really senior level. That's where we think we can make a difference in here and, Neil, really have an impact on the whole profession. But bringing in people that maybe have never considered or thought about an opportunity in finance and accounting at this level and be able to come out with a really good paying job, a global credential, and a credential from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Amato: Also, I will not forget a Future of Finance question. As that Future of Finance Summit, which is latched on to the Digital CPA Conference in early December in Austin, Texas. What do you look forward to most about that group getting together?

Hood: Well, so this group has been working now. Our leadership advisory group, which is about 50 of these folks, have been working with us through this year about 13 meetings. We created a new Future of Finance maturity model to help people assess where their accounting and finance teams are on their transformation journeys. That's going to be a big feature of this conference. We've got some great keynotes. We are going to be covering a lot about the workplace. Talent is the No. 1 issue everybody is facing, Neil, continues to be.

We're going to have a lot about workplace. We're going to do a good bit about diversity, equity, and inclusion because our Future of Finance group is the one that really led us down this apprenticeship path. Because they said, we would do anything to get a diverse pipeline of talent. That's exciting that we're able to bring that forward to them there. We've got a group now that's about 100 strong, about double last year, and so it's going to be really good. Table discussions, we're going to have the graphic recorder recording everything that's going on, and then we're going to have a lot of output from that. I think you're going to be there helping us cover it.

Amato: Yeah, I will be hosting some podcasts, maybe not exactly live, but definitely some of the speakers and some of the knowledge that comes out of that will be captured in future Journal of Accountancy podcasts. So thanks for that promo, Tom.

Hood: Absolutely, we love having you there, but anyhow that's what we're really excited about that this year's event — it's going to be bigger and even better than last year.

Amato: Great. I look forward to seeing you there. December in Texas, Tom. Thank you very much.

Hood: Neil, thank you.