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Being a team player is more important than ever, says Shariff. “So much is driven by your ability

to perform on a team. Employers want folks who can see beyond the edges of their own desks”

Canada, believes these soft skills now far outweigh technical requirements on employers’ wish lists. “The more conversations I have with employers, the more I hear that they assume the technical knowledge is there,” he says. “Employers now say can- didates won’t be successful unless they have those soſter skills.” Bill McFarland, CEO and senior partner of Pricewaterhouse-

Coopers, concurs. “Technical skills are table stakes,” he says. “We want students and people with strong communication skills, high integrity, confidence and a willingness to adapt to change, continuously learn and improve and challenge the status quo while working in diverse teams to find the best solu- tions that add value to our clients. Education doesn’t end at university. It is only the beginning and our responsibility at PwC is to develop all people to their full potential by giving them the right experiences, coaching and in-house training.” Toronto-based Shuaib Shariff is a 25-year accounting veteran

who originally trained in the UK and has spent most of his career at CIBC Canada, most recently as senior vice-president and CFO for Canada region. He says employers are now “jug- gling a whole bunch of balls in a globally connected environ- ment.” That means successful CPAs will have to think tactically and strategically as opposed to following direction from the top. “It’s about being nimble and able to connect the dots for your employer,” he says. “There’s the need for broad abilities while still being able to drill down to focus on a particular segment.” While he admits it sounds cliché, Shariff believes being a

team player is more important today than ever before. “It’s about being able to interact with folks at every level of the orga- nization and in every discipline,” he says. “So much is driven by your ability to perform on a team. Employers want folks who can see beyond the edges of their own desks.” Bryan Lillycrop, vice-president and controller of Loblaw Cos.

Ltd., is the PEP leader at Loblaw. He has nine candidates cur- rently enrolled in the CPA program and six who have already graduated. While the designation plays a part in his choice of candidates, he says his star recruits have shown true purpose- fulness in planning their career paths to date. “Beyond the pure letters beside your name, I want to make sure the experience you’ve gotten on the path to getting your designation really shows the breadth of what you can do.” Even more than showing leadership potential, Lillycrop

believes aspiring CPAs must have the ability to cope with rapid change — an ability that is becoming increasingly critical in business today. “I wouldn’t say the skills are that different but there’s more of a ‘need it now’ approach,” he says. “We have the


ability in this day and age to analyze big quantities of data and that’s what’s expected.” Dan Chun, owner of accounting firm Chun & Co., based in

Kelowna, BC, describes the pace of technological change over the course of his career as “mind-boggling.” When he started his CGA training in 1980, computers were in their infancy and most information was input manually. “Now a quarter of my staff members don’t even work in the office and I could go to Mexico for two weeks and work from there if I wanted to,” he says. “You definitely couldn’t do that before without lugging a whole bunch of boxes with you.” “When I look at the workplace, I see our biggest change is

coming through digital transformation,” agrees Charles Henaire, deputy CFO, chief accounting and control officer at Great West Lifeco in Winnipeg. “The volume and pace of change from even five years ago are unbelievable.” When Henaire got his CA designation in 1991, changes at GWL centred on consolida- tions and acquiring insurance companies. Now, particularly since the 2008 financial crisis, regulatory compliance and finan- cial reporting have heightened across the industry and stake- holder demands are constant. Henaire says companies are also dealing with a different type of consumer who puts a priority on timely, accessible information. “Where I see the real value of the new profession is that this generation has grown up in real time and is comfortable using technology,” he says. Henaire says the new program provides a consistency of

training across the board and has reduced some of the internal confusion around the requirements associated with legacy des- ignations in the past. “I do believe there is more clarity now that we have one accounting profession,” he says. “Accountants used to be pigeonholed and it’s starting to resonate with users of CPA services that it’s not just about audit and tax.” Add to that the fact that, with the new practical experience requirements, com- panies can now train potential CPAs straight out of university. “Big companies like ours take a long time to understand, and the more we can help develop someone internally, the more strength that gives us.” As CPA PEP enters its third year, Hilton says focus groups and

interviews with employers across the country will continue, to ensure the program continues to hit its mark in preparing CPAs for the workplace. “One of the biggest challenges we have is trying to figure out how to leverage online technology to really help students acquire those soſter skills that employers identify as being critical,” he says. “Developing that problem- solving framework that involves those rich discussions with a

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