The language of business: Accounting students show their skills off at a special competition
What makes Centennial College’s education unique is its commitment to connecting students to real-life learning, something that classroom knowledge can’t compete with. This is the case with all of our programs, including Strategic Management-Accounting. Taking an accounting program at Centennial College can make you into a real professional, and graduates from this program look at money and business from a strategic perspective, using their accounting skills to create plans for life and business.
A team of accounting students got the chance to acquire some real-life experience and demonstrate their learning at the 2017 OCACC - Ontario Colleges Accounting Case Competition. A team of Centennial College accounting students from Strategic Management-Accounting was pitted against 22 other colleges at the end of March. The competition itself involves the students reading a case study, essentially a story about a business in trouble. The students have to understand the case, create a solution and pitch it to the judges. Here’s how the team prepared, and how this connected to our mission to deliver real-life experience.
School of Business professor Gopika Joseph served as the team’s main coach this year, along with professors Geoffrey Prince and Norm Leclair, and recruited students simply by posting a notice on the news bulletin, and interviewing the students who replied.
“We selected the best three candidates based on delivery, skills and knowledge in accounting,” said Gopika. The three-person team consisted of students Adam Mohammed, Needhi Rajdev and Nikunj Bhuptani.
Adam had taken part in a previous marketing competition during his Centennial education, and was eager to try it again.
“I had decided when I came to Centennial that I was going to take part in all the extra activities I could,” Needhi said about her reasons for joining. “So I just saw the brochure on the message board at the college, and found that it was a good opportunity to participate and gain some practical experience.”
“I have always liked presenting and public speaking,” Nikunj said about himself, “so this was a good opportunity for me to demonstrate my skills, and gain a new set of skills.”
“Every week we met,” Gopika said about the prep work for the competition, “and students would actually be given a case to practice on and discuss. Preparation is one and a half hours, the delivery is about 15 minutes, and the feedback is another hour. We would work every week on a new case, they would read it out, solve the case and then present it. Every time it was a different background and different information, so they got exposure from different firms and different businesses.”
For each case, they had to implement a strategy to accomplish whatever financial goal the case had, which is what strategic accounting is all about.
“We did a lot of cases,” says Adam. “And then we had to present it in front of a panel. It broadened our knowledge, and we had to use the knowledge that we gained from all the courses. We tried to deliver the best possible outcome for whoever is the client.”
“Our instructors were our mentors, and the guiding light of the competition,” Needhi says. “They provided us with the case studies which were used in previous competitions, and were used in the actual industry. By this, we came to know the actual corporate scenario out there.”
At the end of March, these skills were tested in a competition between 22 teams all across Ontario, with one final case study they each had to provide a solution to.
“The case was real-life based,” says Adam, “on Mayor John Tory’s proposal about privatizing garbage collection in the east end of Toronto, so they wanted to know what the benefits were of privatizing garbage collection and what would be the potential downfalls. We had to come up with both quantitative and non-quantitative factors, like unions, how it would affect workers in terms of termination of employment, what would happen when the contract ends and if they privatize after the contract ends.”
“We had two hours, and it was a very huge case on our part,” Needhi says. “We came up with a solution that we should privatize both districts of Toronto. It was a rigorous two hours of preparation.”
“The analysis took us around one and a half hours, and we had a little time left for making the Powerpoint presentation,” Nikunj says. “The only thing you can do is try to be as fast as possible. Your time was the most important thing.”
While they didn’t advance to the next round, the entire team gained valuable experience practicing the kind of situation their future careers will demand of them.
“It went well, and they actually learned a lot,” said Gopika. “They gained a lot of experience, they really felt that this was a great experience just being there, doing the cases week after week for the last three months, increasing their in-depth knowledge and skills.”
They also gained new skills to list in their resume, as well as meet networking contacts from CPA Ontario and other accounting firms.
“You get insight into what it is actual professionals do,” Adam says of what he gained from the competition, “because there were members of CPA there, and they are the evaluators. They give you all the questions at the end that a client would actually give you, so you get the actual experience of how it is you’re going to solve one of these cases in a real life situation.”
“Now I have a clear insight into my future goals,” Nikunk says. “Once I did this competition and took part in it, I got a renewed energy.”
“Taking part in the competition gave us a clear picture and an idea of what we have to study, how we have to study it, and the goals to be achieved,” Needhi adds. “It helped me very much, and now I have a clear picture of what I have to do to pursue my CPA.”
By Anthony Geremia