August 2003

COAP: Providing a Foundation for the Future

Many anticipate hard times ahead for the accounting profession. Such skeptics would benefit from spending some time with the next generation of CPAs, as NYSSCPA members are often able to do.

Over a brief but intense two-week period in July, we ran our annual Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession (COAP) program, reaching out to minority high-school students to make them aware of the possibilities available to them. COAP is one of several NYSSCPA programs aimed toward potential entrants to the profession, but it’s unique and important because it focuses on minority students, who are unlikely to have role models in the accounting profession or receive other guidance about the business world. Many of these students are unaware of the opportunities available to them, especially those that will be the first members of their families to attend college.

COAP recognizes that not everyone is destined to become a CPA. But when they know more about accounting and other areas of business and finance, their options will be broader, their aspirations will be higher, and their choices will be more challenging and rewarding. Rather than simply promote accounting as a career, COAP promotes higher education in general. In addition to providing resources for finding one’s own path, COAP also teaches how to prepare for and conduct oneself on a job interview and other practical skills.

Each summer since 1987, COAP has recruited highly motivated minority students for week-long residential and commuter sessions at colleges around the state. The students are exposed to a broad range of career choices through lectures, visits to CPA firms and other business settings, and other activities that let them meet, learn from, and forge lasting relationships with successful role models and like-minded high-school students in a supportive, friendly environment.

COAP originated at Pace University. Over the years we’ve added sessions at Hofstra University (1997), Long Island University in Brooklyn and Westchester Community College (2001/2002), and in Syracuse (2002/2003). A total of 108 students participated this year, with the local NYSSCPA chapters running the programs in Westchester, Brooklyn, and Syracuse. In Syracuse, the chapter’s Young CPAs group took the ball and ran with it, establishing what I hope is a model for our chapters in other parts of the state to follow in future years. A goal of mine is to have COAP programs in two new sites next year, and to eventually serve the entire state with strong chapter participation in every area.

The NYSSCPA chapters that invest resources in COAP—the Syracuse Chapter’s Young CPAs group is a great example—deserve a lot of credit, and I’m encouraging our other chapters to follow their lead.

Experiencing the Results

In late September, Keyspan, the energy company, will sponsor a program called Homecoming, which will provide COAP students and their parents with information about applying to college, including scholarship and financial aid opportunities. This will be the first time all of the COAP programs will collaborate on a single event.

I had the immense pleasure of attending some of this year’s programs, and I watched enthusiastic high-school juniors talking with CPA mentors about business etiquette, business ethics, basic accounting principles, and how to find a corporate internship or a full-time job.

At Westchester Community College, the college president attended, as he had last year, and he talked enthusiastically about how important he thinks COAP is. Westchester’s program included field trips to Pepsi, MasterCard, and BDO Seidman, where students learned firsthand what the CPA firm environment is like. At Long Island University, Ernst & Young partners with the COAP program.

At another recent event, I met a student who said he wants to become a CPA because he recognizes accounting as a field where he’ll always be able to find work, and where his aptitude and enthusiasm for math will make him successful. At another event, I met a student who told me he wasn’t sure college was right for him, and he already seemed to accept that he should have only modest expectations and ambitions. We talked briefly about some options I thought he could consider. When we met again at another event, this student specifically asked if I could check in with him occasionally because he thought he’d need an extra push—a request I could not say no to.

If you’re interested in getting involved in COAP individually or through your chapter, or simply want more information, let me know. Whenever I attend these events I worry less about the future of the accounting profession because I know that many of these young people will accomplish amazing things, and their careers are just beginning.

Louis Grumet
Publisher, The CPA Journal
Executive Director, NYSSCPA

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