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Growing into the Future: The value of early engagement

Ohio Society of CPAs – Save the Associations Vol. 6


The Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA) has long been a leader in both the accounting and association worlds because of its future-focused initiatives. Its programs for college students and young professionals have resulted in their association successfully engaging Millennials. In fact, membership is now perfectly in line with business – Millennials make up 27% of the workforce and 26% of OSCPA’s membership. But like any good leader, OSCPA knows there are always new challenges that lie ahead.

“Our members are telling us that new graduates need higher-level skills to meet business demands,” shared OSCPA President and CEO Scott Wiley, CAE. “Automation is making the entry level accounting work of yesteryear obsolete. That means firms need new graduates to be year-two ready and take on client relationship management and other higher-level responsibilities sooner.”

In response to business feedback, colleges are shaping program curricula to be more career-focused to better prepare students. These specialized degrees are a large time commitment, requiring students to pick a degree early if they want to finish in four years.

Associations and businesses can help by engaging Gen Z students in high school, so they can commit their full college career to their specialized degree. In response to this need, OSCPA decided in 2016 to create a high school student membership to help guide students to the CPA profession. Today it has more than 2,000 high-school-aged members.

High School OSCPA Membership

The high school OSCPA membership serves students by giving them the information they need to know about the accounting profession, such as salary trajectory, career opportunities and what it takes to earn the CPA credential.

The high school membership also offers key insights into what an accounting career would look like and explains the process of becoming a CPA through tailored events:

  1. High School Accounting Career Days engage high school students on various college campuses throughout Ohio. In 2017, OSCPA held six different events, engaged more than 1,200 students and provided them with valuable information about the profession, internship opportunities and job security after graduation.

  2. ACAP-Ohio is a weeklong summer camp for racially underrepresented students held in partnership with the National Association of Black Accountants at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. Forty-five students have the opportunity to explore careers in accounting while spending a week on a college campus.

  3. CPA Camp is a new program launching Summer 2018 for underrepresented high school students in the Greater Cleveland area who are interested in exploring careers in accounting.

Creating Engaging Content

OSCPA understands that knowing what information Generation Z wants is only half the battle. They also must be creative in how and where they share this information to grab Gen Z’s attention.

“OSCPA is using more images and videos and is on social media to communicate with members and meet their expectations,” Wiley said. Here are a few ways OSCPA is meeting those expectations:

  1. ‍Fun social media campaigns, such as featuring CPAs with their pets and highlighting Ohio accounting couples for Valentine’s Day.

  2. A Certified YouTube series that follows a group of aspiring CPAs as they prepare for and take the various sections of the CPA exam. The series offers young people a realistic view of what to expect.

  3. ‍Through podcasts such as “The State of Business with the Ohio Society of CPAs” podcast that launched Spring 2018, showcasing two nationally recognized thought leaders: Danetha Doe and Chris Ortega.

  4. The OSCPA blog, which allows the association to reach members every day on the topics members care most about.

The Advice for Other Associations

Wiley encourages other associations to be ready for resistance when they want to push for change; change is hard for people. “Leaders need to be prepared to be transparent, vocal, and repetitive,” said Wiley. “Positioning change takes time, requires transparency and, for associations, has to be grounded in trust. If not, the change we seek won’t be the change we deliver.”

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