What does it take to make tax students job-ready?

CPA Canada asked employers, students, faculty and others how the In-Depth Tax Program could be improved. The answer? By focusing even more on what grads need to be job-ready from day one.

The In-Depth Tax Course is Canada’s premiere source of tax education. About three-quarters of Canada’s tax specialists have gained their foundational tax skills through the program.

In place for about 40 years, the program has been regularly updated and enhanced while preserving three core features: it’s taught by practitioners; it reinforces learning through small, facilitated tutorial groups; and it’s employer-supported.

Now, CPA Canada is gearing up for the program’s next iteration. Following on recommendations of a Tax Education Tax Force in 2012, which also shaped the program’s current design, CPA Canada commissioned a far-ranging consultation and review of the program. Working with University of Waterloo tax professor Jim Barnett, CPA Canada’s tax education team engaged the national CPA firms, In-Depth Tax Course faculty and students, and other stakeholders on ways to further enhance the program’s value for aspiring tax practitioners and their employers.

The main message received from interviews and focus groups is that graduates must be ready, willing and able from day one to be productive tax professionals. Based on this consensus, the program will move toward an outcome-based approach, and the amount of technical content may be reduced selectively to allow more focus on developing the critical tax skills that will help get students job-ready.

As students gain distinct job-ready skills and knowledge with each year of the program, there will be more frequent communication with employers on what students have learned and what types of assignments they should be able to complete. The next steps are to gain stakeholders’ views on the development of key elements of the program’s next iteration, which includes:

  • defining expected job-ready competencies at the end of Years 1, 2 and 3
  • developing competency maps with proficiency levels
  • creating a new on-the-job assessment process

Among other proposed changes, CPA Canada will also look at opportunities to allow for greater flexibility and accessibility to the program so students can experience learning in different ways that meet their professional development needs.

Roll-out of these new elements is expected to start in the fall of 2018, with some simpler recommendations being adopted earlier.

An executive summary of the report features more background on the program redesign process and the specific recommendations arising from the review. The full report is available by request.

Keep the conversation going

I want to hear from you. In today’s world, what skills and knowledge are needed by a tax practitioner on completion of the In-Depth Tax Course? You can keep the conversation going by posting a comment below.

CPA Canada’s Tax Blog is designed to create an exchange of ideas on tax policy and practice issues and their impact on those who practice tax.

About the Author

Gabe Hayos, FCPA, FCA, ICD.D

Vice-president, Taxation, CPA Canada