KPMG is offering high schoolers paid internships to help fix accounting’s staffing shortage.
By her own admission, Autumn Kimborough, 17, didn’t have a passion for accounting. But the rising high school senior from Flossmoor, Illinois, heard about a well-paid summer internship at KPMG, which included a $250 clothing stipend, and got excited.
For the first time, the Big Four accounting firm organized a three-week session geared toward high schoolers with the specific goal of encouraging younger adults to consider a career in the field, according to Jennifer Flynn, KPMG’s community impact lead.
Nearly 200 teenagers are participating in the summer internship program, which pays $20 or $22 an hour plus clothing and transportation stipends and meals, and includes a business etiquette class, among other skill-building tools.
Students are also paired with mentors who track their progress. “We wanted to make sure our interns are getting a really full experience,” Flynn said.
“I had some preconceived notions that it’s sitting at a desk,” Kimborough said, about being a CPA. “Now I’ve learned that with accounting you can travel and meet people and that drew me in.”
Accounting firms face a shortage of CPAs
Accounting firms have been facing a significant staffing shortage.
Between the long hours, stressful deadlines and unflattering stereotype, more people are quitting the profession than going into it.
Instead, students straight out of college are choosing to pursue careers in related fields such as investment banking, consulting or data analysis. The additional credit hours required to earn a certified public accountant license don’t help either.
To tap the next generation of number crunchers, other accounting firms and nonprofit groups are also trying new strategies to address the talent pipeline problem by appealing directly to teenagers.
Recently, The Deloitte Foundation, Urban Assembly and Outlier.org, which works with schools to offer for-credit online college courses, kicked off a dual enrollment pilot program in New York.
Starting in the fall, some public high school juniors and seniors can take an Intro to Financial Accounting class and earn three college credits through the University of Pittsburgh, which they can then transfer to the college of their choice.
The goal is also to inspire more diverse students to consider accounting careers.
This isn’t the sexiest of professions.
KPMG’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer
“We know this isn’t the sexiest of professions,” said KPMG’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer Elena Richards. “We are really trying to focus on starting earlier and broadening the reach.”
“This is our way of getting them to know this is a profession that has a lot of opportunities.”
The profession’s lack of diversity is another reason the industry has failed to attract young talent, separate studies show. Just 2% of CPAs are Black and 5% are Hispanic despite significant job opportunities in the field, according to a recent AICPA Trends Report.
Accounting often ranks among the top jobs with the best future outlook and six-figure salaries, according to other reports.