South African accounting firms are unlikely to follow suit after EY UK announced it would remove academic qualifications from its recruitment criteria. From 2016 onwards, students in the UK will no longer need to have at least 300 UCAS points (equivalent to three Bs) and the second-highest degree classification – an average of 70% – 74% – to apply for EY’s graduate, undergraduate or school-leaver programmes.
“Instead, EY will use a new and enhanced suite of online ‘strengths’ assessments and numerical tests to assess the potential of applicants,” reads the press statement on the matter.
UCAS points are allocated for subjects and qualification obtained after the GSCE level, which according to the South African Home Schooling Curriculum, is equivalent to grade 10 and 11.
EY Africa talent leader Johanna Mapharisa says the policy won’t be adopted in South Africa, explaining that every EY member firm is free to recruit student candidates in whatever way that best suits the needs of their clients and communities.
“In South Africa, we take a holistic approach at hiring student candidates, and the grade requirements removed by the UK firm are not applicable to our hiring process,” she says.
South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) senior executive Mandi Olivier was happy to hear that EY Africa won’t be adopting the change.
“The model followed for accounting in the UK is very different to ours. In the UK, you can study whatever you want, and then you can be trained as an accountant thereafter. In South Africa, accounting is strictly a graduate degree profession,” she said.
EY UK dropped the academic requirements because, it said, there was no proof of a degree qualification enhancing the performance of a candidate in their professional career. So it wanted to cast a wider net to give opportunities to potential recruits and to create a more even and fair playing field for those who did not necessarily have access to higher education for whatever reason.
The company said they did “internal research on over 400 graduates and found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment”.
“Instead, the research shows that there are positive correlations between certain strengths and success in future professional qualifications,” reads the press release.
Olivier says EY UK may have changed its recruitment policy because it only recruited from top universities which, because of the cost, would have excluded a large pool of applicants.
Says Olivier: “From a SAICA perspective, my view is that we would strongly be against the abandoning the requirement of a degree. It will take them (EY UK) a long time to get it right. Because here, students need a three-year undergraduate degree and still then another year in post-grad.”
There is, however, an alternative for students who want to go straight from high school into a work programme, or a learnership, through smaller training offices while they study through UNISA.
“This allows the student to gain practical experience, and can’t be released from their training contract until they have graduated. The only difference is that, instead of a three year degree it’s a five-year period,” says Olivier
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