Recruiting and Training the Next Generation of the Profession
By Jeremy S. Bass, CPA, Tax Partner
My first experience working as an accountant began in 1995 as an intern at Oscar N. Harris & Associates, P.A. during my junior year at Campbell University. Back then, the computer systems were much slower, the client records were more paper than digital, and the returns were hand delivered or mailed rather than electronically delivered. However, the fundamentals learned about client service, efficiency, and quality work product remain the same to the present. A profession is only as good as those that we train to take our place and service our clients when we are retired. Having a passion for the accounting profession and meeting our clients’ needs have always been some of the things that drive me in my career, but another is an eagerness for working with student interns who are just getting started in the profession and teaching and guiding them to one day be the future of the profession. This is so important to me because back in 1995, Oscar Harris, Sherry Johnson, Connie Stancil and many others took an interest in my future and helped me develop a knowledge and love of accounting and client service that stayed with me from that point until now. I have spent the last twenty-seven years of my life doing just that. I learned accounting theory at Campbell University, but I learned how to be a CPA and trusted advisor to our clients from those that poured their knowledge and time into me over the years. It is part of my purpose and mission to share some of my knowledge and experience with these student interns. Hopefully this will instill in them a passion for accounting and client service that will stay with them at BRC or wherever their careers may take them.
For the past five years with BRC, and many before that, I have been involved with our student internship program. Every year, BRC hires students from various colleges and universities who are seeking internship opportunities in accounting. These internships give the students a chance to get real world hands-on experience in their chosen field. They can apply some of the knowledge they have learned in the classroom. It also gives the interns an opportunity to see what an actual workday would be like, learn from experienced staff and CPAs, and work on tax and attest engagements to decide whether public accounting is something they would like to pursue. Some of these internships result in full time offers from BRC or other firms who are impressed with the skills and knowledge these interns have gained. This experience also benefits the students who can use this time to meet part of their experience requirement related to becoming a CPA. From the employer standpoint, this program also gives BRC the opportunity to work with the student interns to determine if they might be a good fit as a BRC employee. We have offered full time positions at BRC to many interns over the years that are now with us and developing their careers. There are also many that transitioned to industry, education or government and we enjoy following their careers and felt grateful to have had a part in their development.
As a way for BRC to build on relationships with the local universities, we establish a “College Champion,” which is usually somebody who already has a connection with the university. I am currently the “College Champion” for Campbell University from which I graduated in 1996. We have a very good relationship with Campbell University and value that partnership. Last busy season, we had 10 part time interns work in our offices or remotely from Campbell University. These interns typically worked around 20 hours per week. We make sure to assist them with their work schedule so that it does not interfere with their classes, which we encourage to be their first priority. As part of our relationship with the university, we always attend both Campbell’s Career Day and an Accounting Club meeting where we meet and talk with many students about BRC, what we have to offer, and our experience in the profession. I can say to these students that over my career I have seen most every facet of accounting. I started just like them as an intern in 1995 and worked my way through the various levels to eventually become a partner in the firm. It can be done, and I am an example of it. At these meetings, BRC attendees include managers who have been with the firm for several years as well as recent hires who were in the same seats not that long ago. They speak with the students about the profession, the value of the internship, what they learned, and how it helped them in their careers.
Over the years, I have seen numerous students go through our internship program. They have been a big help to our firm, and I hope that we have had a positive and lasting impact on their lives and careers. It is a rewarding experience to get an email from a former intern letting me know they passed the CPA exam, got a new job or promotion, or wants a permanent position because we have a better work/life balance. The internship program helps us to attract and retain talented students to the accounting profession and also allows us to give back to a profession that has been so rewarding. I often think back to the days when I was an intern, and it is almost overwhelming. I went from trying to find my way around an individual tax return to working on an audit and preparing financial statements to developing into a trusted advisor and providing quality service to our clients. It was a process many years in the making, but it all started when someone took a chance on me as an intern, provided me an opportunity to prove what I could do, and had the confidence to hire and share their knowledge with me. As I have matured in my career, I can look back and appreciate those opportunities and hope that I have been able to take what I learned and make a positive and lasting impact on the profession. One of the best ways to do that is to work with, train, and give opportunities to the future generations that will become the accounting profession.
Jeremy S. Bass Tax Partner, CPA
Jeremy is a partner in our firm and has worked for over 29 years in public accounting, providing tax, accounting and consulting services. Education Campbell University, Bachelor of Business Administration – Accounting (Summa Cum Laude) Professional and Civic Memberships American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants (NCACPA) […]