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Nuts and bolts training adds up

WHEN SIMON DAVIES joined the retail group Dixons a few years ago he quickly realised that the level of demand for quality young accountants meant that the company and others like it were going to find it increasingly difficult to do what they had traditionally done - fill their finance positions with part-qualified and newly qualified chartered accountants emerging from firms.

As a result, Mr Davies, the company's planning and analysis director, "started from nowhere, developing a training scheme".

And when the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (Cima) came up with its Training Through Partnership (TTP) initiative it seemed like an ideal opportunity, he says.

Among the facets which the scheme provides for companies is benchmarking against other companies' training efforts.

Mr Davies sees this as a "very important" element in helping the company to ensure that it has an excellent training programme.

In turn, that helps the company differentiate itself in the marketplace for good-quality recruits, while the graduates themselves gain from being on a recognised course. Dixons, which has just become the 1,000th partner in the scheme that started in 1996, has 10 people involved and is expanding that number by five a year.

The success of the scheme comes as the Cima qualification appears to be increasingly attractive to all sorts of employers, largely because of its practical grounding in the "nuts and bolts" of business.

The institute says one financial director has said the requirement that trainees apply their knowledge in a wider business context was particularly useful, since his company expected trainees to make an impact on the business from the start.

But it is not just companies which are seeing the benefits. Government departments and other public-sector bodies are among those signed up for an initiative that helps employers to regulate the amount of training and proficiency that should have been attained at each stage of the student's development.

The TTP programme achieves this through offering a highly structured course in four stages, each with four modules - ranging from financial accounting fundamentals to management accounting control systems.

According to Customs & Excise, one of the public sector bodies to have signed up, a key benefit is that the scheme provides "a key professional benchmark" for training accountants.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the world's largest accounting and general professional services firm, has set about establishing the programme in such places as Poland, Cyprus and Malaysia.

Allan McNab, founder of the firm's training scheme, said Cima had addressed the concern about the continuing global shortage of world-class financial business managers.

Jake Claret, Cima's director of member services, says: "What we've developed is a total-quality approach to the needs of students and business to ensure a win-win situation."

Pointing out that it combined flexibility and practicality with a rigorous structure, he adds: "But what makes TTP stand out is that it is an employer-based partnership."