The shortage of financial skills in South Africa is beginning to affect business growth. This is clear from a recent report by the jobs portal CareerJunction. The company did an employment review for 2022 and revealed that the IT and finance sector was severely impacted by the lack of skilled individuals in certain fields.
In the financial world, qualified individuals are needed most in external auditing, taxation, actuarial management and administration, financial analysis and cost and management accounting. Many of these skills – like actuaries, investment analysts, tax professionals and external auditors – were also included in the government’s latest 2022 Critical Skills list, published by the Department of Home Affairs.
Increasing complexity and regulation in the finance sector as well as corporate governance requirements call for trained and experienced professionals able to navigate the often nebulous landscape of financial statements, balance sheets and risk evaluations to help companies plan for the future, come up with innovative solutions and strategies to operate in unstable economic times.
The shortage of financial skills in South Africa has also been linked to the country’s service delivery crisis. According to the last report by the auditor general for the 2020-21 financial year, only 16% of municipalities received a clean audit. Auditor General Tsakani Maluleke made a point of lamenting the shortage of financial skills within municipalities, which she attributed to an exorbitant R989 million spent on financial reporting consultants since 2016-17.
It is precisely these issues that Milpark Education has been addressing over the past few years with specialised courses like an adjustable bridging programme that can be done over six months or a year and which, upon completion, offers entry to the postgraduate diploma in accounting (PGDA).
Milpark Education has incorporated the fast-growing and popular CA Connect brand, which has already helped hundreds of prospective chartered accountants. The new School of Professional Accounting at Milpark Education, which was launched in 2022, has merged existing schools within Milpark to raise the academic offering and tailor it even more to the needs of SA students – especially for students who have been struggling to obtain tertiary education due to disadvantages in their education and background. The school offers a range of accounting qualifications, enabling students to pursue various accounting professions. In 2023, the school also launched the first fully online BCom in Accounting degree.
The Chief Academic Officer, Marilize Putters, says industry and business have welcome Milpark’s programmes. “We have received a great deal of interest from stakeholders to partner with us, as well as firms to recruit our students.”
Part of Milpark Education’s core mission is to empower South African students whose educational journeys have been affected by disadvantages of schooling and background and personal and professional circumstances. Structuring programmes and building student support, mentoring and one-on-one sessions into the programme forms part of providing students with psychosocial guidance that students in testimonials repeatedly highlight as the biggest motivational and inspirational forces during their academic journey.
“Our academic programmes are more accessible to students,” explains Putter. “Traditional universities set the bar very high for entrance requirements and we want to assist students who may not have necessarily gained access to other universities and whose academic records may not reflect their actual abilities.”
“It is important to us here that we provide a safe environment for students,” adds Andrew Horsfall, Chief Executive Officer of Milpark Education. “It is not lip service but a key pillar of the educational philosophy at Milpark Education. We recognise that there is huge human potential that is not being utilised in this country.”
A big differentiator is Milpark’s focus on student well-being which is built into course implementation. This means counselling and mentorship for academic as well as personal issues. Topics like time management, study scheduling and balancing work-life responsibilities benefit from the expertise of trained counsellors who offer proven tactics and strategies.
Ex-student Bridget Mashego joined the institution as an assistant lecturer after completing her PGDA in 2021. “The one thing I like about Milpark, not only from a student but also from a staff perspective, is the culture of genuine caring. That is why I love being in this space, they live out their values and don’t just have it pasted on the wall.”
Bridget is completing her articles while working at Milpark Education, a requirement for the CA (SA) qualification. She is excited about qualifying as a chartered accountant. “We need more black people in this profession. I wanted to see more black men and women in the boardroom when I was still working in the corporate world. It is the same with academia, we need more black lecturers who understand what students are going through. There aren’t enough black CAs who can act like mentors, to show others it can be done.”
Transformation and diversity are part of the Milpark passion for developing educational promise and giving a voice to students who have been struggling to be heard or felt it was not their time to study. Milpark wants to say – your country needs you, you can do this, and we can provide you with the financial skills that will not only see you advancing in your career and future prospects, but that will also help our country grow and prosper.