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Deakin provides a unique link between VCE teachers and industry professionals.

VCE teachers from across Victoria had the opportunity to connect with Deakin Business School (DBS) academics and leading industry professionals at an innovative professional development day held at Deakin’s Melbourne Burwood Campus.

Offered to VCE business and accounting teachers, the all-day seminar was a first-of-its-kind event for the accounting discipline in Australia.

Dr Luckmika Perera from the Department of Accounting says the aim was to provide key connections and insight for teachers, academics and industry employers.

‘The purpose was to actively engage VCE business teachers with DBS academics and industry professionals. We wanted to assist VCE/secondary sector understand the current challenges and direction of the accounting profession while also providing an opportunity for academics and industry bodes to learn more about the issues faced by secondary school teachers,’ he said.

In his welcome, Professor Mike Ewing (Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law) said he was proud of Deakin’s accounting program which enjoyed a high ranking in student satisfaction, employability and industry connections.

‘It’s an exciting time for accounting – both in Australia and worldwide – and we’re determined to work more closely with schools and industry to find synergy and alignment … Deakin is all about employability.’

Presenting the keynote address, Deakin’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Beverley Oliver spoke about the curriculum of the future and the technology rules that will govern the future.

‘Learning now takes place in my space, at my pace, in micro-bytes and on micro-devices,’ she said, adding that universities needed to embed ‘hard and soft skills’ into their commerce degrees and implement clear ways of measuring them.

Prof. Oliver also spoke about the seven new job ‘clusters’ (from a recent report from the Foundation for Young Australians) and stressed the importance of preparing graduates for jobs of the future.

‘These have been identified as the artisans, the generators, the coordinators, the informers, the designers, the carers and the technologist. Education is the pathway to these future work clusters.’

Mr Bardo Fraunholz, from Deakin’s Graduate Employment Division, also outlined some of the ways in which Deakin supports and equips its graduates for 21st century careers.

‘We deliver a scaffolded career education in the curriculum – it’s a new era for students and graduates and it’s critical that support and equip them. This includes providing lifetime access to our services and resources through DeakinTalent.’

DBS lecturers Peter Vuong and Tracey McDowall explored some of the ‘best practices’ for engaging students which include adding value to every minute a student is in class and also awarding ‘Deakin Hallmarks’ which recognise capabilities identified as key in employment success.  

Explaining how DBS accounting programs are designed, Dr Sutha Kanapathippillai spoke about the importance of ‘scaffolded learning’ while Dr Simon Scarparo and Laurie Webb outlined the Department of Accounting’s international study program which offers students the opportunity to talk to key personnel working in businesses such as IBM, Disney, General Electric and MasterCard.

‘It’s 15 days of intensive, valuable learning time that incorporates academic content and four assessments – the learning outcomes for students include teamwork, interpersonal skills, knowledge and capabilities,’ said Dr Scarparo.

KPMG partner Michael Bray – also a DBS Fellow – spoke about the ‘new norm’ of integrated reporting (IR) and the convergence of financial and sustainability reporting, emphasising the importance of incorporating IR into the VCE curriculum.

‘Many companies are working on IR now and it will be the norm by 2020 and grads will need to have a really strong understanding of it for the jobs of the future. Plan a trial or a pilot of teaching IR at VCE level because a student coming into a Bachelor of Commerce will need it,’ he advised. 

The final session for the day included a highly-informative industry panel discussion with representatives from IPA, KPMG, CPA, and CAANZ.

Michael Linke, IPA’s Executive General Manager (Member Services) said that the rise of social media in the accounting professor is now impacting the way organisations engage with clients.

‘It plays a huge role. The world has changed and it’s all about relationship building. Graduates can use energy on digital frontier to benefit their accounting careers.’

General Manager of CPA Australia Anthony Matis explained that the ‘stigma of being an accountant’ has long gone and accounting skills are now recognised with a set of life skills.

‘The challenge for educators is manage expectations and ensure that skills are portable and global. Success is not pre-defined – it’s a sum of parts.’

He added that resilience is one of the key employability skills that organisations seek in new graduates.

‘For example, I’ll look for evidence of the personal and professional ability to bounce back. We look for applicants who are bold and curious and we want employees who foster energy and passion. Encourage your students to have an “I will” mantra. Don’t wait until they get to uni to start building skills, experience and networks,’ he advised VCE teachers.

VCE commerce teacher Stephen Warden, from Geelong’s Christian College, said he attended the event because he was looking for information on the relevance of the Year 12 course to university studies and the path to employment.

He said it was a ‘brilliant day’ that provided valuable insight.

‘A particular highlight was the industry panel who spoke about recruitment practices and issues for graduates - there seems to be great links between Deakin and the industry.  The challenge is now for better links between university and secondary schools. It would also be great if universities and the accounting industry could provide more info to schools about what they are doing for example via the VCTA,’ he said.

Reflecting on the success of the day, Dr Luckmika Perera said it was the first time there had been a systemic attempt to engage VCE teachers with the university and industry representatives.

‘We’re very grateful to Duncan Pittard, Anthony Matis and Michael Linke, the three executive general managers of CAANZ, CPA and IPA, who provided valuable insight and input. With their continued support we plan to hold a similar event next year.’