Jill Miller-Barone CPA, CA is the Director of Taxation at TELUS, and she co-manages their Finance Management Development Program. Jill has been involved with TELUS’s participation with the CPA Pre-Approved Program since 2007. In this inaugural Employer Spotlight, Jill shares her perspective on training CPA candidates.
How has the training program at TELUS developed over the years?
Our training program has a strong legacy and has been around in one form or another over the last 50 years. We have had people who started under the training program retire after 33 years of service.
The development of our program is guided by a belief that getting the required education and practical experience is only one part of becoming a CPA. It’s also about giving back and making improvements for the future. We want everyone—including our candidates—to feel like they have a voice. Because of this, our program has a council of candidates who are involved in improving the program. They report to the steering committee, which is made up of rotation managers, mentors, VPs, and directors. The steering committee is charged with the strategic oversight of the program.
What role should an employer play in training CPA candidates?
An employer should be their candidate’s champion. Not only do employers help their candidates meet their practical experience requirements, they also help candidates envision their career map and the multiple available options. It’s a lot of work to get a CPA designation, but those three letters aren’t the end of the journey. It’s an employer’s job to help their candidates be successful in the process and to continue helping them succeed after that.
What are some unique supports that TELUS has in place for its CPA candidates?
In order to shape well-rounded professionals, we put our candidates in front of senior leaders on a regular basis. This supports them in developing their presentation and leadership skills and also builds their confidence. For example, some of our candidates recently presented on new accounting standards to 150 of our finance team members over teleconference. Additionally, candidates present monthly results to the CFO.
We also bring all of our candidates from across the country together for two days, once per year. They receive training and development opportunities, and they also get to network and meet people from all locations and divisions. Candidates get key development opportunities by having access to senior leaders and getting their take on how they work through different strategies and what challenges they’re facing. Our candidates are also given opportunities to develop their leadership skills through council leadership opportunities and by buddying up with new candidates and supporting them in getting oriented at TELUS.
As a large industry employer, we are also able to provide CPA-specific support such as study leave to our candidates as they prepare to write the Common Final Examination (CFE).
How does TELUS benefit from the investment it makes in its CPA candidates?
We are building our future leaders. We bring people in at the ground level straight out of university, and they get a great base to see different areas and meet people with different perspectives. Through our rotational program, they are able to work within our different businesses and interface with different roles like marketing or engineering. The rotations provide a wide breadth of experience for the candidates to help them determine their career interests, all while ensuring they’ll meet their practical experience requirements. When they complete the program, they are positioned to serve the organization well, resulting in long-term success—both for the individual and TELUS.
You’re very involved in the management of TELUS’s CPA program. What are the benefits?
I love seeing the candidates succeed—not only in passing the CFE, but in growing within the organization and increasing their confidence.
I’ll admit there are time management challenges that come with supporting a program outside my regular job responsibilities. But the benefits far outweigh any potential drawbacks. My work with our program has given me many development opportunities outside of my core job that I may not have otherwise had; as a result, I’ve been able to build strong relationships with many people throughout our Finance team. Thankfully, we work closely to share the workload when it comes to the strategy and day-to-day operations of the program; the dedication of a few key people and the support of a larger team contribute to our success. Each person gives a bit extra to make the full program flourish.
What are some key things that employers need to know if they want to help their CPA candidates be successful?
At the beginning, understand that candidates are likely transitioning from being full-time students. Now, they’re balancing both studying and work, and they don’t always succeed in this balancing act; often, they could use a hand in figuring this out.
It’s also important to give candidates time and space for their studies. An employer doesn’t need to give paid days off, but simply encouraging, supporting, and mentoring show that an employer knows how important the candidate’s studies are.
All-around mentorship is important to ensure candidates feel connected. Our mentors support not only the CPA journey, but also the broader career growth of our candidates. An employer must understand the CPA competencies to ensure candidates get the right opportunities to get their work experience. But it also goes beyond ensuring they attain the competencies; it’s about identifying where the next rotation will be and where candidates are going once they’re out of the program, as well as connecting them with others who can help them along.
Finally, it’s worth noting that personal life and mental health play a role in the success of both studying and work. Referring candidates to resources such as CPA Assist or internal employee health and wellness programs can go a long way towards supporting a candidate who may be struggling.
What tips or advice do you have for employers who are not yet Pre-Approved Program Route Providers (PPRP) or are early in their journey to becoming one?
CPA Alberta is a great resource. We reach out to them when we have questions around our program or around PERT. We attend their recruitment events (a great way to attract new talent), and we rely on resources from the Employer Relations team, which specifically target our needs and have been extremely helpful.
Additionally, the Employer Relations Team has enabled us to make connections with similar employers. As other PPRPs are in different industries, our paths might not otherwise cross. This line of communication helps us figure out if the issues we face are unique to us or if they impact all employers of candidates.
Finally, I would advise employers to look at the investment they’re making in their programs and figure out what makes sense for their organization. Don’t create a PPR just to have one; create one if it makes sense for the company’s needs and if it fits with long-term goals when it comes to recruitment, professional development, and succession planning.
Thank you, Jill, for sharing your insights! Is your company doing great things to support your candidates? Share your story with the Employer Relations team and be featured in a future issue of CPA PEP Talk.
Check out our resources for employers to help you support your candidates.