The role of the accountant is changing as a result of new technology and software which can now do many of the process-heavy jobs which accountants used to have to do.
In the future an accountant will need not only numerical skills, but a knowledge of technology, an understanding of how business works, the ability to communicate and present figures and information effectively, and the skill to work across different teams and departments.
This new world of accountancy means that training needs to change and adapt to the new demands of the role. As an awarding body, AAT has to review the qualifications we offer every four or five years anyway to make sure that they are relevant. Changes are needed as the industry moves on and develops and Qualifications 2022 is the result of our research and development of the AAT qualifications suite.
Why are we introducing Qualifications 2022
We undertook research with business leaders and experts in accounting technology and asked about where the industry was going and skills that employers will need technicians to have in the future.
They put forward a number of recommendations in terms of skills within accountancy, as well as broader business, technology and communication skills.
This includes training in softer skills and understanding the role of technology in accountancy and business and how it is evolving, how digital and cloud accounting works, and the benefits and potential drawbacks.
The qualification that we have created continues to have the core fundamentals of bookkeeping and accounting at its heart, while adding the new skills that the technicians of the future will need.
The feedback that we were getting from businesses and employers was that accounting technicians have gone from just people that process numbers to a more strategic and advisory role. Although accountants still do a lot of number processing, they need to understand what those numbers mean and to be able to evaluate them, analyse them, and then advise colleagues, businesses and clients on their implications.
So for example, if you don’t make a change, what’s that going to do to the business? If you do make a change, what impact will that have? The role of a technician has really developed to become a more advisory role, so the new qualification includes understanding the business environment.
What are the new levels?
This is an entry level qualification in Bookkeeping and a Level 1 in Business Skills. This is an ideal introduction to accountancy and bookkeeping that would be suitable for school leavers, or people who have come to the UK and are looking to gain basic skills to complement skills they have from their own country.
Bookkeeping teaches single entry bookkeeping, while the Business Skills qualification looks at how numbers are used in business.
Bookkeeping and Accounting qualification are offered at AAT Level 2 and develop some of the skills obtained in Level 1. This qualification takes around six to months to complete.
As you go through to level three more advanced level skills, you’ll start to learn more about how to analyse and evaluate figures. This qualification takes around 12 months to 15 months to complete.
At AAT Level 4 there is much more focus on the skills required for effective management accounting. In addition, there are a number of exciting optional units which gives students the opportunity to specialise – for example in tax and audit, or in credit and debt management. This qualification takes around 15 months to 18 months to complete.
You can go in at any level, and it very much depends on your previous experience. Most people will start at Level 2 if they have come out of college and have GCSE and/or A level qualifications, although there are no specific entry requirements. For example, someone who has been working in an accountancy or a finance department and who wants to enhance their learning could start at Level 2.
How has the qualification been redesigned?
Based on the outcome of the research, there were four key themes which we identified as being important. These skills and qualities have always been at the heart of the AAT qualifications, but this iteration of qualifications has enhanced them. They
Ethics, communication, technology and sustainability and they are all introduced at Level 1.
As students progress through all the way through the qualification, their level of knowledge around these four areas builds. The qualification enables them to see how these skills are embedded into the role.
These four themes have always been at the heart of the AAT qualification, but our research indicated there was much more awareness needed around these areas.
The ethical background to accounting, what that means both personally and professionally. This covers regulation including Anti Money Laundering legislation and knowing your clients.
Being able to understand the numbers and convey them to the client or business. The role of the accountancy technician is changing and students need to be able to communicate, analyse the figures, and then report on what those figures means, internally, to a business, or to a client.
Communication covers how you present how you present the numbers and how you report back on them. It is the real analysis and presentation skills that technicians will need going forward. Students are often surprised about how much writing is required in assessments because they think it is purely a numbers qualification.
This looks at the development of digital technology, how businesses are sustainable in the context of proper investment, management of their accounts and using digital tools. Where once people came and dumped a bag of receipts on an accountant’s desk, now receipts can be collected and processed online using apps and software.
Students will look at the pros and cons of technology and interpret how technology is changing the role of the accountant. For example, we assess the positives and negatives of implementing cloud accounting versus standard software packages. This section also covers Making Tax Digital (MTD) and the move toward more frequent online reporting and cybersecurity.