Membership Pro Tip: Engaging Students Early Boosts a Career Pipeline

Lots of professions have taken a hit during the pandemic, including CPAs. One state society decided to cast a wider net and engage high school students to bolster a crucial need for more CPAs. It’s working.

Recognizing that the certified public accountant pipeline is facing significant challenges in the coming years, the Indiana CPA Society proactively tapped a younger group—high school students—to build an earlier awareness of the profession and lay the groundwork for increasing the ranks of CPAs.

In 2020, INCPAS started CPA Week, a presentation series for high school students where they hear from association volunteers about what it really means to be a CPA in an easy-to-understand way, deconstructing stereotypes that it might be a boring, or all math-related profession.

“It’s really helping those high school students see that a career as a CPA is an opportunity to give back to your community, produce meaningful work, and be a business leader,” said INCPAS President and CEO Courtney Kincaid, CAE.

How Does It Work?

In 2021, INCPAS conducted its CPA Week virtually and the participation numbers more than doubled. Thirty-two volunteers gave 39 presentations and reached nearly 1,000 students, up from 450 students last year at this time.

As a result of the first presentations, INCPAS currently has 50 high school student members after it launched a new, free membership type for them a month ago, with an overall goal of 150 members for the fiscal year. The membership provides students with resources to support them if they decide to pursue accounting in college.

Why Is It Effective?

It’s effective in increasing college enrollment, Kincaid said. Starting at the high school level is daunting because it takes a long time for anything to come to fruition. The students are young, so “it’s a really long runway,” she said.

And it’s a large investment of time and resources. “But we really know it’s what our members need,” she said. “It’s what they talk to me about more than anything else.” It is difficult to find enough interns, staff, and accountants. “It’s extremely competitive right now,” she said. “It’s always challenging, but especially post-COVID.”

What’s the Benefit?

The benefit for student members is it shows them being a CPA is a great profession. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” Kincaid said. INCPAS is giving students knowledge about the profession, and information on how to go to college, what to do when they get there, and how to afford it. For INCPAS members, it is filling the pipeline with the future workforce they need.

INCPAS is also committed to sharing its resources. “We’re all in this together,” Kincaid said. “We want all the state societies to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the profession. This isn’t a competition; this is a collaboration.”

Do you have a membership pro tip? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

(SDI Productions/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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