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Professional development: an overview for employers

This element of the ACA will give your students the skills to handle a variety of situations throughout their career. ICAEW Chartered Accountants are widely known for their professionalism. They know how to spot and communicate risks and provide interventions. They also know how to adapt to changing circumstances and engage with technology.

Professional development skills

Your students are required to demonstrate competence across seven professional skills areas (also known as ladders) during their ACA training. Each area or ladder contains six to eight steps, each representing a skill. They will develop these skills within the exams and the workplace and will need to record their progress with each skill within their online training file. They will also need to discuss this with their employer or principal at each six-monthly review.

You are responsible for making sure your students develop their professional skills and are able to give good examples from their practical work experience, so they can complete all steps across the seven ladders by the end of their ACA training. Where your student starts and how fast they progress within each skill area is flexible and will be managed by you.

Your professional development framework

The date your students register as an ACA student will determine the skills they develop during their training and the professional development framework they will follow.

The seven professional developments skills students will follow are shown within their online training file and include:

  1. Adding value
  2. Communication
  3. Decision making
  4. Ethics and Professionalism
  5. Problem solving
  6. Teamwork
  7. Technical competence 

Professional development: two options available

Your students will follow one of two paths to develop their professional skills, either:

  1. ICAEW professional development ladders; or
  2. Your employer's professional development training.

If they are following your professional development training programme, this means that your internal professional development scheme is accredited by us and the programme follows the overarching skills identified within our professional development ladders.

If your students are following the ICAEW professional development ladders, they will record and maintain their progress via the online training file within the professional development tab.

Whichever path your students are on they can access the ICAEW professional development resources available.

If you would like your professional development scheme accredited, we can discuss this with you at your initial authorisation review. You can also contact the training team on +44(0)1908 248 038 or email acaemployer@icaew.com

Professional development and exams

Students are also required to demonstrate professional skills in their exams. Many of the skills within each professional development ladder are linked to the Case Study and ethics, so we strongly recommend that all steps within each ladder are completed before your students attempt this exam.

When they have attempted all ACA exams, and only have the Case Study to attempt, you will be able to review their professional development progress to evaluate whether they are ready to take the final exam.

Please note that our regulations state that students cannot sit the Case Study until the final year of their training agreement.

Six-monthly reviews

  • It is a requirement of the ACA training agreement that you meet your students at least every six months. These meetings are to discuss and monitor their progress on professional development, ethics and professional scepticism, practical work experience and exams. It is your students responsibility to update their records within their online training file.
  • Before each six-monthly review your students are required to update their professional development tab within their online training file. They need to add specific examples of how they have met the steps within each ladder since the last review. This means that you can discuss their professional development progress and work-based examples during the review.
  • As you discuss their progress, you need to confirm with your students that you agree with the skills they have demonstrated. They then enter the feedback you have given, and if you agree, they tick the 'Did you achieve it?' box. They then click save and that step of the ladder is signed off as complete.

Professional development resources for your students

  • ACA student training webinars are available to support you in developing your professional development skills. The webinars focus on a variety of skills you will find within the professional development ladders. You can watch them on demand, any time. Visit icaew.com/listenagain
  • Our ICAEW Student Insights page features updates, articles and top tips from professional development experts.