AT&T Shifts Recruitment Strategy to Target Graduate Students

AT&T's chief accounting officer, Sabrina Sanders, is targeting graduate students for the company's in-house training program, shifting away from traditional reliance on large CPA firms. The program aims to build a slate of skilled accountants to fill leadership roles and address the accounting workforce shortage.

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AT&T Shifts Recruitment Strategy to Target Graduate Students

AT&T Shifts Recruitment Strategy to Target Graduate Students

Sabrina Sanders, AT&T's chief accounting officer, is targeting graduate students for the company's in-house training program, shifting away from the traditional reliance on large CPA firms. This move is a response to the competitive job market and the need to address the accounting workforce shortage that has seen 340,000 employees leave the industry since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Why this matters: The accounting industry's labor shortage has far-reaching implications for the economy, as it can lead to a lack of skilled professionals to provide accurate financial reporting and guidance to businesses. If left unaddressed, this shortage could compromise the integrity of financial systems and hinder economic growth.

AT&T's two-year-old in-house training program aims to build a slate of skilled accountants who will fill leadership roles in the future. The program offers summer internships, a 20-hour work study, and a two-year paid training program, with 20 participants so far. Trainees will rotate across roles, tackling technical work such as revenue recognition and tracking the company's lease portfolio.

The program aims to attract top accounting graduates who typically would join the Big Four accounting firms - Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, and Ernst & Young. "With our world rapidly changing, it's just one of the ways that we're trying to respond to everything going on across the industry," Sanders said in an interview with Bloomberg Tax. "We have really, really strong tenure. If they want positions in leadership in accounting here, they need to have a wide variety of experiences and knowledge."

The accounting industry is facing a tight labor market, with fewer younger workers choosing an accounting career and Baby Boomers preparing to retire. An industry task force is expected to release a plan to address the labor shortage this month. US corporations face unique threats from the reduced accounting labor force, including the departure of seasoned accountants and lost institutional knowledge.

Zach Donah, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Society of CPAs, emphasized the challenges in recruiting new talent, saying, "You've really got to work for it when you're looking to recruit new talent." With 25 million Baby Boomers expected to hit retirement age by 2030 and an 18% decline in graduation rates from accounting programs since their 2016 peak, the industry is grappling with how to attract and retain skilled professionals.

AT&T's shift in recruitment strategy underscores the urgency of addressing the accounting workforce shortage and the need for innovative solutions. As Sanders leads the charge in targeting graduate students for the company's in-house training program, it remains to be seen how this approach will impact AT&T's ability to build a pipeline of future accounting leaders and navigate the challenges facing the industry as a whole.

Key Takeaways

  • AT&T's chief accounting officer targets graduate students for in-house training program.
  • Accounting industry faces 340,000-employee shortage since 2020 due to pandemic.
  • AT&T's program aims to build future accounting leaders with diverse experiences.
  • Industry task force to release plan to address labor shortage this month.
  • 25 million Baby Boomers to retire by 2030, exacerbating accounting labor shortage.