Qualified support

An ambitious CIMA scheme for employers will offer extra help in training management accountants. By Anthony Doherty

CIMA's pass list is to be published this week in the Independent on Sunday: an emotive moment for the anxious candidates. But a good time also to spare a thought for those students who are receiving extra help in gaining their qualification. Under a scheme launched by the institute last month they will be able to benefit from increased training support.

The new scheme, Training Through Partnership, aims to encourage more employers to provide high quality support to trainee management accountants. In practical terms, a greater range of employers will be given access to support from the institute when training their students.

The range of organisations being invited to take part range from major multinationals and public sector organisations, to small businesses managed by their owners.

Initially, employers will be encouraged to undertake a self-assessment exercise to build up a profile of their training support. Organisations will be monitored regularly to ensure that standards of training are maintained, with CIMA's business development managers making routine visits.

Organisations in the scheme will be certified as either CIMA-recognised, or CIMA quality-approved. CIMA-recognised status will be awarded to those providing training support at a threshold level defined by the institute's quality standards. CIMA quality-approved status will be awarded to those organisations which offer the highest standards of support to their students, and will be available only to employers that show an ongoing commitment, and offer training in line with what CIMA considers to be best practice.

Crucial to the scheme are the quality standards themselves. These describe, in a simple matrix format, the areas in which employers are expected to assist their students. They cover financial and study support, planning for practical experience, and monitoring and review. The matrix-type format helps to give an immediate profile of the training support an organisation is providing. It can be used to provide a framework within which employees and students can agree expectations and responsibilities with regard to training.

The revised standards, which are the result of extensive consultation and field testing, will be useful in many business environments. Mark Flicker, finance director with GEC Alsthom Traction, says: "They offer added value to the organisation, because they provide clear guidelines and standards enabling the development of higher potential employees."

For employees, benefits include a chance to compare training with that of other organisations, to map future objectives, and to integrate finance training with business needs. CIMA also hopes that it will help participating companies to attract and retain good employees.

Keith Porter, finance director of BICC UK Cables, explains the benefits of the scheme. "We have found the quality standards extremely useful for internal benchmarking purposes, establishing uniformity and continuity across departments. The company will also benefit from the external benchmarking information which Training Through Partnership will provide."

For students the scheme has obvious benefits, as it will encourage better training by employers, providing more information on the levels of training support and helping them to gain CIMA membership. However, the emphasis of the new scheme is on a joint approach to training.

Having launched the scheme in the UK, CIMA wants to develop similar schemes in other countries. The standards for CIMA-recognised status will be the same worldwide. However, in order to reflect differences in cultural norms and business conditions between countries, CIMA quality-approved standards will be based on what is considered best practice in each area concerned. Malaysia will be one of the first countries to benefit, followed by South Africa and Sri Lanka.

So, take heart if the goal of CIMA qualification sill seems a long way off. As Steve Matthews, training adviser for CIMA, says: "Training Through Partnership demonstrates the Institute's commitment to and belief in the value of planned training for employers and their students. It should ensure that the best possible support is available to all those training to be management accountants"

Anthony Doherty is director of student affairs at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

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