In a growing and diversifying economy such as Botswana, workers with financial skills like accounting technicians will never be wanting for opportunities – especially in the age of technology.
Finance is often referred to as the “language of business” and the people who can speak this language will always have an advantage in the world of work.
So says Associate Professor Mark Graham from the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business. According to Graham, financial skills are key for growing the small business sector of an economy and they are also crucial in larger firms not least to help guard against corruption and ensure all departments see the bigger picture and are able to make better decisions: “The advantage of being able to correctly interpret financial statements and understand the financial landscape is that individuals don’t have to rely on other people to explain the numbers to them,” he says.
This is why accountants and other financial role-players are those most often consulted in major decisions that affect businesses, industries, workers and communities, says Justin Kyriakou International Development Manager at the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT). And it is why the demand for finance skills and accounting skills continues to grow, despite the fear that AI and technology is going to replace them.
“Advances in accounting technology including new software and cloud computing are expected to automate many of the routine daily tasks of accounting but this automation will make accountants more efficient by allowing them to focus on analysing financial data and advising business leaders rather than on simple tasks like data entry,” he says.
There are many reasons why choosing a career in finance is a good bet, here are just three of them.
1. Financial skills are versatile
“Perhaps the most exciting aspect of looking to accounting as a possible career is the many different avenues that can be explored. Within accounting itself, there are many areas of specialisation,” says Kyriakou. “Our graduates’ feedback is that AAT qualifications are extremely helpful in preparing them for a variety of possible futures.”
For many, learning the skills of accounting has proven to be liberating, in some cases life-changing. Thero Kganela is a junior assistant at Grant Thornton. He wanted to study the AAT qualification for its strong foundation in accounting. Starting straight from his BGCSE, he is hoping to fulfil his dream of becoming a chartered accountant.
Pyoka Mfuni relocated to his native Malawi after his AAT qualification, where he used his new skills to start his own business. He says the qualification helped him earn his chartered status and gave him the skills and confidence to train others. “My business is in management consulting and training,” he explains. “Being an AAT member has advanced my career by ensuring that companies trust me.”
Phokwane Nare is 42 and studied for the AAT Qualification because he wanted to learn more about budgeting and how to control his finances. “Before qualifying, I was a volunteer and audit cleric. I would like to progress to having my own tuition centre, teaching people how to budget,” he says.
2. Financial skills can be gained quickly and on the job
A popular misconception about financial and accounting qualifications is that they require years of expensive university studies to attain. But a vocational approach to gaining these skills has opened the door for many young people who have just finished school.
Anyone can enrol for a practical qualification like the one AAT offers – they are open to anyone of school-leaving age, regardless of experience.
There are many advantages to opting for vocational training, besides gaining practical on-the-job experience. Some of the most important ones are not the most obvious. For example, students learning in an office environment are able to develop soft skills such as communication skills, timekeeping, and collaboration – recently identified by the World Economic Forum as the most in-demand skills for 2019.
All of this adds up to the fact that vocational students are often better able to apply what they learn to the workplace. This isn’t the case with a university, where students will mostly be learning in a classroom. According to the Oxbridge Academy, many employers prefer candidates who are able to walk in and start being productive on their first day, instead of requiring extensive training that takes up valuable time and costs the company money.
3. A growing and diversifying economy needs financial skills
Finally, as Botswana’s economy diversifies, it will need people who have the knowledge to guide businesses and help them grow and achieve success – not just in the financial services sector but in all parts of the economy.
“The accounting profession is ideally placed to do that because accountants have an overview of how a business is performing and can help businesses make better decisions and plan for the future,” says Kyriakou.
For aspiring people like Pyoka Mfuni and Phokwane Nare, it made sense to pursue the vocational route to such a valuable and extremely useful set of skills. Not only are accountants and accounting technicians hot property in the job market, the skills learned clearly build the potential for personal, career and community growth. In simple financial speak, it is a great investment.