Accounting students at Hong Kong's tertiary institutions are now being offered an extra chance to learn first-hand from seasoned professionals and put their theoretical knowledge into practice with a "big four" professional services firm.
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu's internship scheme targets full-time second-year and next-to-final-year accounting students at universities in Hong Kong. These young people are being offered structured on-the-job training by in-house staff to familiarise themselves with today's dynamic and rapidly expanding accounting industry. Such a move will help to boost their professional knowledge and guide them towards a rewarding lifelong career.
The programme accepts a limited number of applications from students during spring and summer each year. Successful candidates selected to join the programme will be those who have exhibited an outstanding academic aptitude and performance level and who have received favourable nominations from their university professors.
The students' individual personality and involvement in extra-curricular activities are also weighed to determine their eligibility for the programme. The firm will conduct further screenings and assessments to confirm the candidate's internship placement.
Under the internship programme, successful candidates can choose to stay for three or 12 months. Those who opt for the longer experience will be assigned to work in the audit or enterprise risk services (ERS) departments. "This will definitely give them a more in-depth understanding of the profession," says Victor Ng, head of audit, Hong Kong. As for those who choose to stay for three months, they will be deployed to work side-by-side with professionals in the tax, audit and ERS departments.
To make sure of a good foundations, all students will attend two weeks' classroom training, during which they will acquire technical as well as basic accounting knowledge allied to the company's audit approach. They will also be exposed to soft skills training methods such as the firm's techniques and finesse in handling clients and their accounts. Each student is assigned a "buddy" or career counsellor who will monitor their performance while with the company and provide personal coaching.
The one-year practical experience is recognised by professional bodies such as the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants. A provisional offer of a second year's professional training will be extended to participating students who perform satisfactorily and who exhibit a keen desire to progress.
National leader in Deloitte's enterprise risk services, Danny Lau, says the one-year internship programme has been well received by students since its initial launch. He passionately believes that by placing students into a real business environment during their studies, they can bring their theoretical knowledge into play while at the same time enriching their personal development.
"By serving clients and co-ordinating with accounting professionals in a dynamic working environment, students will not only realise both their personal strengths and weaknesses, but also improve their interpersonal, problem-solving and communications skills," he says.
A second-year accounting student at City University of Hong Kong, Dorcas Au-yeung, was one of the students who participated in last year's 12-month internship programme. She describes her experience as "eye-opening".
Like the full-time professional staff in the firm's audit department, Ms Au-yeung had to serve a wide range of clients and complete various tasks. Though the job at first seemed a bit tough, it nevertheless broadened her knowledge, enhanced her competence in accounting, and made her all the more determined to develop a career with Deloitte after graduation.
Echoing her view on the programme, Eric Chong, who studies accounting and finance at the University of Hong Kong, says he became more mature after joining the programme. He was also placed in the ERS department, which gave him the opportunity to manage a range of projects involving various industries such as travel, technology and the retail trade. However, the work he found most interesting embodied computer audits for companies, an area yet to be covered by his school studies and lectures.
The in-house experience gained by Ms Au-yeung and Mr Chong has certainly reinforced their passion for the profession. Likewise, two second-year accounting students, Tammy Hui and Mei Wong, are both determined to do well in every facet of this unique programme.
Ms Hui is a second-year accounting student at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She initially applied for Deloitte's three-month programme, but subsequently extended her internship to one year. She believes the longer period of placement should help her to become thoroughly familiar with the firm's operations and the underlying nature and scope of the industry.
She also hopes to take advantage of the widespread opportunities available to gain experience while working with clients during her placement. Such fieldwork will also equip her with the up-to-date, practical accounting know-how that will allow her to put theoretical knowledge into practice.
Ms Wong, also a second-year accounting and finance student, studies at the University of Hong Kong and has high expectations of the programme. She says she will view her experience as a stepping-stone to developing her future career.
To ensure that its hiring policies are being objectively conducted, a Graduate Assessment Centre has been established to search out aspiring talents. Based on the personal profile submitted, suitable candidates are invited to take part in an initial interview, several assessment activities, and if all went well, a Deloitte partner interview.
Big-four firms such as Deloitte are always the preferred employers for graduates anxious to go far.
"The firm's popularity with university graduates can be attributed to its lofty professional status in the industry," says Victor Ng, head of audit at Deloitte. Those who join this prestige firm will gain maximum job satisfaction as well as the knowledge of, and exposure to, some leading global client portfolios. "This in itself will help them to expand their future personal portfolio of knowledge and accounting skills," he adds.
Mr Ng advises graduates interested in joining the accounting industry to prepare themselves for future challenges, but mainly sheer hard work. This, he firmly believes, will stand them in good stead for a rewarding career that will fulfill their long-term personal ambitions.