Accounting students at the Judd Leighton School of Business and Economics are supplying a need for talented personnel on Crowe Horwath’s new centralized audit services team (CAST), while gaining excellent real-world accounting experience. CAST staffers are able to perform the same audit tasks traditionally done in the field in a centralized office because of technology advances. “Students exact the same experience in the CAST model as they do in the traditional internship model,” explained Jason Whitmer, senior manager. “However, if they are a good fit for Crowe, they are often able to continue their internships beyond the spring busy season and work year-round.”
The circumstances around traditional accounting internships are focused on practical experience only. “Accounting interns are asked to know a wide variety of information and perform tasks; often on their own,” explained Whitmer. “The CAST model allows students to get theoretical learning through the classes they are taking and practical experience at the same time. We hope by combining these two, we can develop staff more quickly.” In addition, working with a variety of people and personalities firm-wide also helps students and interns develop valuable people skills. “People skills are important for students who want to pursue the audit path in public accounting,” commented Whitmer.
On the other hand, the firm gains a talented crew who can provide audit support services to its clients throughout the U.S. from a centralized location.
Crowe Horwath piloted CAST in August 2012, and made its first CAST hires in October 2012, said Stacey Ball, manager and recruiter for Crowe Horwath. Today, the program has approximately 45 employees with a goal to reach 100 by 2016. Last year, all Leighton School interns who worked the busy spring season at the firm were provided opportunities to work in the summer as needed and continue the internship through the fall until they graduate. In addition to students and interns, accounting professionals who enjoy public accounting but who cannot accommodate the long hours and travel of the traditional path are also recruited for CAST.
Students must complete certain course requirements to be considered for the CAST program, including Introduction to Financial Accounting, Introduction to Managerial Accounting, and Computer and Business. Excel skills are critical in auditing services. “CAST offers an opportunity for students to become very proficient in Excel,” said Ball, “making them more desirable candidates for employment.”
Working closely with accounting firms like Crowe Horwath, the Leighton School faculty gains valuable information about the academic coursework its students need to succeed in the field. “Our faculty work closely with our partners in the community so we can adapt our courses to meet the needs of the workforce,” said P.N. Sakensa, assistant dean of graduate studies and accounting professor.
As Crowe Horwath’s audit and tax services have grown, a strong centralized audit team---CAST-- has been established to meet the demand firm-wide, and Leighton School accounting students and interns are filling the need for talented personnel. It’s a win-win for the firm and Leighton School accounting students.