IMA Tackles the Skills Gap in the Finance and Accounting Profession

Educators from top universities join the discussion and showcase ongoing efforts to match the changing demands of the profession

22, March, 2022 – IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants), one of the largest and most respected associations focused exclusively on advancing the management accounting profession, hosted an event titled “Bridging the Skills Gap in the Finance and Accounting Profession” this week. Focused on bridging the skills gap increasingly faced by students and young professionals entering the finance and accounting sector, the hybrid event brought together academic and profession experts from across the region to discuss ways of working together to address this challenge. The live event, hosted in Dubai, was also livestreamed for audience who tuned in online from across the Middle East region via zoom webinar.

The event addressed the pace of change being driven by new data-centric business models, shifts in consumer behavior, and economic uncertainties and how this is impacting the role of the finance function. In this context, discussions revolved around both students and entry level professionals facing a skills gap due to a mismatch between profession requirements and existing curriculum design.

Finance and accounting professors and academic faculty members from four of the top universities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE touched on how academic institutions need to develop a more enterprise-aligned approach to help students develop skillsets and expanded levels of competency to address current and future profession requirements. Participants also shared some of the initiatives being undertaken by their universities as part of nation-wide endeavors to prepare young professionals for the future.

Hanadi Khalife, Senior Director of Operations for IMA MEA & India, said: “In today’s dynamic business ecosystem, it is important that both enterprise and academia understand where the finance function is headed. All of us here collectively need to reimagine the future of the profession. Newly defined and designed curricula needs to revisit the finance model, as well as integrate it with data sciences and emerging technologies such as AI and automation to give the finance function a more strategic edge. IMA is preparing for this future by working with professionals and institutions of higher learning to support the advancement of the accounting and finance profession. Our aim is to help bridge the skills gap by connecting students and professionals with the insights and analyses that will empower them to thrive and take on the future with confidence.”

Speaking at the event as panelist, Taha Nasir, Assistant Director, KBS Business Engagement Office, Lecturer, Department of Accounting and Finance, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals said, “There needs to be an all-in approach to address the skills gap in the Finance and Accounting Profession. There has been some significant success at the organizational level at many businesses, but we need to consider a more cohesive approach. The academia and private sector need to work closely and put their best foot forward in helping young professionals upskill themselves and help them find strong ground to build a strong career upon.”

Highlighting the role of professional organizations and academia, Dr. Ayth Ibrahim Almubarak, Professor of Accounting, King Faisal University said, “Professional organizations play a critical role in addressing and bridging the skills gap in the Finance and Accounting Profession. Events such as the one today help provide a good platform to bring the private sector and academia together to discuss the best approach to help professionals develop relevant skillsets and broaden competencies. By sharing knowledge and expertise we can make significant progress in addressing the problem.”

Dr. Amer Qasim, Vice President, Al Ain University (Abu Dhabi) and Professor of Accounting, College of Business (AAU) reinstated the importance of updating the curriculum. He said, “There will be a negative impact on the supply and demand in the industry if graduates fresh out of universities are not equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills they need.  The curriculum should be designed to satisfy what the profession needs and adapt to its dynamic responsibilities. This should be done by getting academic experts and professionals collaborate to ensure that what is taught is both needed and relevant.”

Speaking on the role of AI, Dr. ABED AL-NASSER ABDALLAH, Professor of Accounting, Head of the Accounting Department, American University of Sharjah said, “Artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies will be crucial in creating competencies and upskilling. AI will not replace humans, but it will facilitate and streamline our work. AI will create huge potential in gaining a deeper understanding of data and will drive insights; but ultimately it will be left to professionals to leverage these insights to drive actionable and effective strategy.”

The event also played host to a virtual panel discussion featuring four regional speakers representing the academic community. Together, the group weighed in on the skills gaps growing wider by the day and the best practices required to address this. The panelists discussed how the gaps were being addressed from the academic perspective. The need for a confluence between both academia and the profession to work more closely to prepare young entry-level professionals for the world of work was also an important discussion theme. Discussions focused on how the need for change, being driven by technology, was eliminating repetitive tasks and paving the way for more strategic and value-added activities within the finance function.

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