Your qualification questions answered


At PF Live, we were not able to answer all your burning questions- so here are a selection of them, answered by our staff and CSN President, Harriot Winfield.


How can the public sector attract and retain staff?

One of the key ways the public sector can attract and retain staff is through active, ongoing, and effective recruitment to maintain supportive and adaptable teams. To support recruitment, more progression opportunities need to be created, as well as the provision of appealing benefits and improving working practices so there is a better work/life balance in the public sector. For example, Cambridgeshire Council has been experimenting with 4-day week, which has enabled them to fill four permanent roles which they had historically not been able to fill.

To read more about the workforce crisis and ways to tackle it, read CIPFA CEO Rob Whiteman’s recent article on the topic. [ ]

It has also been noted that senior managers need to make an effort to involve staff as much as possible in the strategic issues affecting the organisation. This simple step can increase buy-in and loyalty of the workforce.


Is data integrity in statistics like to be an addition to the syllabus in future?


Developing Strategy and Data Analysis and Business Planning and Financial Management (modules in Diploma In Financial Management and Audit) includes data and analytics in the syllabus, along with big data. We continue ensure our material is fit for purpose and relevant to the workplace through annual reviews.



Are exams still a useful way to reflect the requirements of the modern-day accountant?

Currently this is a hot topic within the professional bodies and we are contributing to working groups on this. However, we have different styles of exams- these reflect the requirements of the modern-day accountant, such as the way we test numerical questions via objective questions, and then strategically through the written case study. We have found that presenting advance information for students to digest emulates modern-day ways of working.

We also feel that our assessment platform offers excel functionality and we provide rates and tables so that our exams are not ‘rote learning’ but about application of knowledge.


The role of the accountant has changed- what practical training is being provided by CIPFA and if not will this be rolled out?

We provide many tools and practical forms of training are available via CIPFA connect, our CPD opportunities and the portfolio. We also are currently undergoing a review of the competency framework to better align it not just with the technical competencies but also the skills and behaviours a modern day accountant needs.


Our new CSN President, Harriot Winfield, also answered the question: what do you feel are key skills and knowledge aspiring accountants need for public sector careers, particularly in modern accountancy?

I feel there are 3 key skills aspiring accountants need for public sector careers: innovation, communication and big picture thinking.

Innovation is increasingly becoming important in modern accountancy and I feel it is a key skill for a successful career. Using technology and completing data analysis are fundamental tasks of an accountant and being able to embrace and spearhead the adoption of new technologies will set you apart from other accountants.

That brings me on to my next key skill, communication. This is crucial to ensure you are bringing your colleagues along with you when embracing new technologies, as well as being able to explain complex financial concepts to non-financial colleagues. If you’re analysis and use of new technologies is excellent, you want to make sure you are communicating clearly and effectively for maximum impact.

My final key skill is big picture thinking. It is very important to be able to reflect on your own work and the wider consequences of financial decisions both in your organisations and the wider environment. This skill will aid you in decision making, particularly in stressful situations where budgets need to be met and there are competing priorities.

If this sounds like you, then I think you’re on the right track for a successful career in public finance. But even if you’re unsure you have the skills I’ve outlined above please remember that people are always developing and the CIPFA qualification will aid you to do so. Ultimately if you’re passionate about the public sector and the role finance plays in this, that will set you in good stead.