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Professional skills in the ACA

To ensure the ongoing relevance of the qualification and ACA training in today's changing commercial landscape, we have recently undertaken consultations and research to identify which professional skills are needed for the future chartered accountant.

The commercial environment in which ICAEW ACA students train is changing. There is less routine and compliance work. This is due to regulatory changes including audit exemption increases and digitisation of tax, and technological changes including data analytics and cloud accounting.

As routine and compliance work reduces, there is a greater focus on the development of skills which equip professionals to work with the outputs of automated processes, with other specialists, and in a changing world. These skills include analysis, interpretation, professional scepticism, communication, collaboration, adaptability, resilience, and commerciality.

The review - consultation / research

By involving a range of key internal and external stakeholders around the world, and from organisations of all sizes and in different sectors, we have been able to review the professional skills developed in the ACA to ensure students maintain the necessary high performance skills to keep them at the forefront of their profession, today, tomorrow and into the future.

The research confirmed that our current professional skills development is robust and that the depth and breadth of skills assessed in the ACA is comprehensive and remains relevant and highly prized. The learning and development of professional skills is embedded throughout the ACA qualification and ACA training, and begins from day one of a training agreement. Students develop their professional skills in the exams, through professional development in the workplace and through the ethics and professional scepticism element of the ACA.

The research also identified five over-arching themes that exist already within the qualification and which will be key for the future professional.

The five themes

The five over-arching themes which were identified during the research are described below:

  1. Adaptability – the ability to recognise that business is in a constant state of change and evolution, to be curious about this, and to be flexible and adjust thinking, approach or methods as required.
  2. Insight – the ability to analyse and interpret data and think critically to provide commercial insight.
  3. Collaboration – the ability to partner and consider diverse perspectives to create successful outcomes while being accountable for self.
  4. Perspective – the ability to take a holistic view of business issues and decisions, considering external stakeholder interests and enterprise-wide implications.
  5. Learning and reflection – the ability to reflect on experience, learn and change to be more efficient and effective.

What have we done

We have updated our existing professional skills and exam skills grids to highlight these five themes.

Timescales - what does this mean for me and my students

Professional development ladders

The professional development skills structure will remain the same; ie, there will still be seven goals, each with 6-8 skills to be developed and demonstrated within each goal. Students will continue to develop their skills in the workplace as they do currently, and they will still need to add their examples on how they demonstrate and meet each individual professional development skill within their online training file. They will also continue to discuss their development and progression of these skills and themes at each of their six-monthly reviews with their qualified person responsible for training, counsellor or principal.

As a result of the review, the following will happen:

  • New ACA students starting their ACA training agreement from 01 September 2017 onwards will automatically access updated professional skills in their online training file.
  • For students who are already training and started on their ACA training agreement before 01 September 2017, the employer will need to decide if their students transition over to the updated  skills. If students do transition over, all the skills they have already recorded in their online training file, will be automatically mapped and transferred over, and updated within their online training file. If students do not transfer over to the updated skills, they will retain the old skills ladders in their online training file. The employer can contact us at applications@icaew.com so we can process the change on our systems.
  • For students in an authorised training employer which has its own accredited career progression and appraisal system, there is no change – they will continue as before. However, when an organisation is due to have its next review visit, the employer monitoring team will automatically check for evidence of the new skills and themes against the employer accredited system as part of the regular authorised training employer review process.

Exam skills grids

Students will also continue to develop skills as they progress through the ACA exams.

The exam skills grids will still be structured under the same four headings as previously, and skills will still be developed progressively throughout professional and advanced level exams.

Have a question?

If you have a question on how skills are changing this year, please do not hesitate to contact us:

T +44 (0)1908 248 250
E studentsupport@icaew.com