According to a report by the CPA Journal, African-Americans make up only 1 percent of all certified public accountants. African-Americans also make up only 7 percent of recent accounting graduates.
Point Park University recently announced the receipt of a $1 million gift from longtime Point Park benefactors George White and Kathleen White. The grant, given to the Point Park School of Business, will be used to fund the Urban Accounting Initiative in an effort to increase diversity in the accounting and finance fields.
“The labor department came out earlier this year indicating the two areas of greatest growth are in accounting and finance followed by (information technology),” said Angela Issac, dean of the School of Business. “A lot of young people select their career paths very early on. One of our intents is to get young people competent to feel comfortable moving into the accounting program when they get older. Our minorities are underrepresented in these fields.”
The initiative will target middle school students, offering them guidance in the accounting and finance fields throughout their secondary education. Leading the effort will be Herman Redi, who served as the executive director of NEED for 30 years.
“One of the issues that I was brought here to do is to develop and bring on middle school students to look at careers in the accounting and finance fields,” Reid said. “The program is a career exploration model. It meets the requirement that most employers have in the city. The academic focus in school is fine, but students don’t really get the real world components and career exploration.”
The program will begin by making students aware of careers in accounting and finance. Through a number of relationships with entrepreneurs in the region, the initiative hopes to give students the skills necessary to enter the accounting and finance field and then to eventually find employment and be retained in the field.
“They will also see why accounting and finance is important. There are plenty of jobs in accounting and finance. First of all everything in our economy today is about jobs; it’s about employment,” Reid said. “Once they’ve completed this, they will have had the exposure that most employers are looking for students will be exposed to a much broader career range.”
Starting in the summer of 2012, the first group of middle school students will be brought to Point Park for a college bound initiative. Prior to the summer session, the university will also host three sessions to familiarize students with the program.
“One of the things that’s clear in the inner city, is that 40 percent of African-American males can not do math at the 4th grade level,” Reid said. “So what we’re going to do is bring them to the college and give them experience in real world skills, skills that employers want in people. There will be a mentoring component and that mentor will be someone who works in accounting and finance.”
The gift also includes funding for the establishment of an endowed professorship in accounting and finance. Point Park will be meeting with members of the community to choose a candidate for this position.