Program aims at shortage in accounting


The need for top accounting professionals has soared in recent years, but the number of accounting graduates has plunged.p. What’s the solution? For accounting and consulting giant Ernst&Young, it’s grow your own — and quickly.p. The company has partnered with the University of Notre Dame and the University of Virginia to create an accelerated master’s program that targets non-accounting majors. The 15-month program, through which Ernst&Young pays students’ tuition, room and board and picks up the tab for books at a combined cost of more than $35,000 per student, encourages business graduates to earn a master of science degree in accounting.p. Participants become Ernst&Young employees during their first few months in the Your Master Plan program program, drawing competitive salaries, and at the end of it are assured full-time employment at the company.p. “The education provided through the program is most appealing,” said Mark Harris, a graduate of the program who works in Ernst&Young’s downtown Chicago office. “It’s free of charge, and I’m still just 22 years old, and I have a master’s degree and the opportunity to pass the CPA exam.”p. Harris, who has an undergraduate degree in finance, is typical of students who have participated in the program, which graduated its second class this summer.p. “The majority of the participants are finance majors,” said Carolyn Slaski, a partner and a director of human resources at Ernst&Young. “Forty-eight percent speak more than one language. These students are incredibly mobile. Many have lived overseas. They are changing majors, so they obviously are willing to take risks.”p. Ernst&Young, meanwhile, wasn’t willing to risk not having access to top business school graduates when it opted to launch the program in 1999.p. “We saw an alarming decrease in the number of people entering accounting majors and coming out and graduating’somewhere from a 20 to 22 percent decline,” Slaski said.p. She said those numbers haven’t improved significantly. “That’s pretty alarming,” she said. “We found out a good number of these people had gone into finance, and information systems.”p. Slaski and Mike Morris, professor of accountancy and faculty director of the program at Notre Dame , speculated that some business students likely were being enticed away to other majors, attracted by potential opportunities in dot-com businesses and investment banking jobs that were more plentiful when the economy was booming. New rules implemented in recent years in some states that require a fifth year of schooling before accounting students can take the CPA exam also may have deterred some students from pursuing careers in accounting, they said.p. “We wanted to get the top students going into these [other] majors,” Slaski said of the rationale for the program.p. To date, 270 students have completed the Ernst&Young program and are now working as full-time Ernst&Young employees. This summer, nearly 200 more students started in the program.p. The program helps assure Ernst&Young of a supply of top-level students coming into the firm, said Slater. Participants sign an agreement that commits them to stay with Ernst&Young for three years after graduation. That helps increase retention and maintain a valuable skill level for the firm, said Ernst&Young spokesman William Church.p. “I think it’s a really innovative idea,” said 22-year-old Yalilie Ramirez, a Cicero native, who just started in the program this year. “It allows me to attend school and work for the firm and gives me the opportunity to apply what I am learning within the workplace.”

TopicID: 395