Indiana Start-Up is Helping Measure and Develop Soft Skills

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CPA Center of Excellence Tool Builds Core Competencies for CPAs, Staff and Students Nationwide

Results of the first-ever national benchmark survey on CPA core competencies are in, and the findings show that CPAs recognize there is a gap to be filled in key soft skills. The survey, conducted by the CPA Center of Excellence®, gathered feedback from more than 600 CPAs in 30 states including Indiana. The CPA Center of Excellence®, powered by the Indiana CPA Society, is based in Indiana.

While other professions have experienced similar issues related to skill development, the survey results mirror other surveys that have attempted to gather thoughts and concerns about both the preparedness of new graduates as well as experienced professionals. The CPA profession is not alone. Many other professions have also reported a skills gap among their respective workforces.

  • Setting a baseline for the "unquantifiable" skills employers and employees are seeking

A majority of CEOs worldwide are concerned with a growing skills gap. In PricewaterhouseCooper's annual Global CEO Survey, 73 percent report they are concerned with finding the broader skills (the core competencies) needed to support growth, and 80 percent agree they need to equip employees with new skills through continuous learning programs. Core competencies are the "soft" or non-technical skills, such as communications and leadership.

Staff and potential hires also are seeking to enhance their skill set. In a recent survey conducted by Robert Half and the AICPA, 31 percent of respondents say they want to continue to grow in fundamental accounting areas but also want the opportunity to learn soft skills such as public speaking, management and communications.

Currently, the seven CPA profession core competencies are: communications, leadership, critical thinking and problem solving, anticipating and serving evolving needs, synthesizing intelligence into insight, integration and collaboration, and knowledge sharing. The first six were determined through an American Institute of CPAs study in 2011, while the seventh was added by the Indiana CPA Society.

The core competencies, while identified specifically for the CPA profession, are mostly universal in nature and applicable to a variety of professions. Thus, the tools and products being developed by the CPA Center of Excellence® could be useful for professionals in many other areas of business.

  • Self and stakeholder assessment

With the new Insight Toolkit for HR & Career Development, individual CPAs can go to to take a free self-assessment to see how they rank against colleagues in the national benchmarking survey results. Upon completion, they have the option to register for a complete 360 degree assessment that gathers anonymous feedback from supervisors, peers, direct reports and/or clients. These assessments can be ongoing, or as part of a staff review or a project/engagement review.

  • The only competency-based pilot program for CPAs in the country; expanding the means and meaning of continuing education

In addition to the benchmark study of CPA core competencies as a group and the online Insight tool for CPAs to measure their core competencies as individuals, the CPA Center of Excellence® has designed and provided online interactive course module for CPAs to enhance their core competencies. These courses are competency-based, meaning participants have to demonstrate competency in order to complete the various sections and complete the course. Currently the CPA profession uses an hours-based approach in that participants in continuing education courses simply have to count hours.

The CPA Center of Excellence® has partnered with the Indiana State Board of Accountancy to implement a pilot program for CPA license renewal offers waivers of up to 16 hours toward CPA continuing education requirements for these competency-based courses. The pilot program was initiated last year and was recently extended through 2017. Each CPA Excellence® course counts for a CPE waiver of eight hours as part of this pilot program (maximum of two courses can receive waivers). Indiana is the first state in the nation to approve competency-based education for CPAs.

  • About the CPA Center of Excellence®

The CPA Center of Excellence® was established in 2014. It offers resources, products and services designed to assist individual CPAs and their firms in the assessment and development of the profession’s core competencies as well as to encourage intelligent collaboration.

Visit for more information.

The CPA Center of Excellence, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Indiana CPA Society.

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Elise LeBlanc

Dave Shatkowski
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