An investigation of the relevance of IFAC’s Competency Framework for practising accountants
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In light of (a) the need for professional accountants to possess a defined set of skills, understandings and attributes in order to be employable and successful in today’s fast-changing, globalised business environment and (b) an apparent gap between students’ knowledge after graduation and the practical application thereof in real-world business, the aims of this study were to: • Establish, from the literature, how and why a competency framework would be a suitable approach to both narrowing the knowledge-skills gap among graduates and facilitating the adequate development of professionals, in particular professional accountants. • Identify the competence areas that were required of aspiring professional accountants. • Determine whether the latter were relevant to practising accountants in a South African environment. These objectives were pursued by means of a mixed-methods approach, in the form of a literature review and empirical research. The competency standards contained in the IAESB’s IES 2 were identified in the literature as being the most suitable focus of this research and were consequently examined. The relevance of these standards to the South African context were evaluated by means of a questionnaire, which was used to gather quantitative data from South African accounting professionals and which was subjected to detailed analysis. The findings of the study revealed that the competency requirements of IES 2 can be adopted and implemented by any institute or organisation that facilitates the learning and development of aspiring professional accountants because it contains a clear understanding of the technical competence, professional skills, values, ethics and attitudes that an aspiring professional accountant should demonstrate when embarking on a career. In addition, it was found that its competence approach was relevant to practising accountants in a South African environment. Several recommendations, which were premised on the literature and recommendations made by the respondents to the questionnaire, were made regarding how to improve professional accounting education programmes, while limitations and further research opportunities were noted.