Covid graduated are getting in-person working training at the top accounting firms


In and out of lockdown and COVID-19 regulations, university students during the pandemic missed out on wild sweaty nights out, coming-of-age experiences, and even processes as simple as sitting in an auditorium with their peers to listen to lectures.

But it was more than just the famed student life that they missed out on. 

Vital lessons about the working world were lost while graduates missed out on presenting to their class or taking on work experience and instead were consigned to learning on Zoom

That’s why two of the world’s big four accounting firms are now offering extra training to young new hires who have “less confidence doing basic tasks” such as making presentations and speaking up in meetings.

Deloitte and PwC, who run some of the largest graduate recruitment programs in Britain, took stock that new recruits have weaker teamwork and communication skills than previous cohorts.

Junior employees who spent part of their school or university years isolated from their peers have found it harder to adapt to the work environment, partners at the consulting firms told the Financial Times.

“This means that there is a greater need for employers to provide training on basic professional and working skills, that wasn’t necessary in prior years,” said Jackie Henry, Deloitte’s UK managing partner for people and purpose.

Hybrid working hasn’t helped the education gap 

Like most modern firms, Deloitte and PwC allow their workers to split their time between working remotely and in the office. 

And while flexible working is largely viewed as an attractive perk—one that young workers would even be willing to walk out on a job for—it’s also further hindering their learning due to the lack of opportunities to shadow more senior staffers.

As such, PwC said it is ramping up the coaching it provides junior staff, including allowing client-facing employees to coach the firm’s youngest workers on their career development, performance and wellbeing.

Under the two-year temporary assignment program, which has already been piloted in some business lines, the coaches receive training and the firm will fund them if they pursue formal career coaching qualifications.

Meanwhile, Deloitte had launched a new induction program to help plug “skills gaps” among graduates and apprentices, as well as, training on presenting online and in person, and building professional networks.

From July, new joiners will attend a week-long training program with sessions on mental resilience, overcoming adversity and the importance of mindset”, Henry said.

The firm is also bolstering the benefits of going into the office, Henry added, including the chance to “collaborate, network and learn from more experienced colleagues.”

Your youngest hires could be struggling with stress and confidence 

It has been well-documented that students faced a double whammy impact of the constant coronavirus disruptions to their lives: Not only did their education take a knock-back, but so did their mental health.

Deloitte similarly found that recent recruits had minimal prior exposure to a corporate environment, were delaying their professional exams which accountants study while working, and were experiencing stress “in a way we haven’t seen before”.

Henry added that the result was that the youngest workers who had become used to working in isolation were less confident, struggled with teamwork and had difficulty knowing how to work in the office and around clients.

“It’s wholly understandable that students who missed out on face-to-face activities during COVID may now be stronger in certain fields, such as working independently, and less confident in others, such as presentations to groups,” said Ian Elliott, the chief people officer at PwC UK.

Beyond managers flagging the difference between recent joiners and previous graduates, Elliott revealed that new starters themselves were telling their bosses about their struggles with navigating the corporate world and asking for help. 

“They’re keen for more support,” he concluded.

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