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The other side of getting qualified

Barry Payne explains why every ACCA student should take work experience as seriously as their studies and shows how to take the strain out of completing ACCA’s Student Training Record.

Why is practical experience important?
In addition to passing the examinations, you must complete ACCA’s practical training requirements if you want to become a Chartered Certified Accountant.

The evidence of the workplace experience you gain and wish to count towards membership is recorded in your ACCA Student Training Record (STR).

What is the STR?
The STR is the logbook in which ACCA Professional scheme students record relevant workplace experience. You should have received your STR on confirmation of your ACCA registration. If you do not have a STR, you can download a copy from ACCA’s website. Alternatively, you can request a hard copy from your local ACCA office.

Why should you complete your STR?
Quite simply, without evidence of sufficient relevant practical experience, you will be unable to apply for full ACCA membership.

Completion of the STR is also invaluable in documenting and monitoring your career progression. The STR provides you with a framework to ensure that you are developing a wide range of technical and management skills. Effective completion and review of the STR will assist both your personal development and the contribution that you make to your organisation’s objectives.

How do you meet ACCA’s practical training requirements?
To meet the practical training requirements for ACCA membership you should:

–  obtain a minimum of three years supervised and relevant practical experience; and
–  satisfy the minimum competence requirements.
–  Supervised means that your work should be supervised and reviewed, wherever possible, by a qualified accountant.
–  Relevant means that your work should be related to at least one of the elements of competence set out in the STR.
–  Competence relates to the standard that is required and should be demonstrated by a Chartered Certified Accountant in the workplace.

What are elements of competence?
ACCA has identified a number of key areas in which Chartered Certified Accountants work, covering a range of technical and management functions.

Within these key areas, specific elements of competence have been defined. Each element of competence relates to a specific skill, task or area of responsibility that may be demonstrated in the workplace. These are explained in detail in the guidance notes supplied as part of the STR.

You need to achieve a minimum number of these elements to meet ACCA’s practical experience requirements, depending on the version of the STR you are completing.

STR (for students registered from 1 January 2001)
To meet ACCA’s practical experience requirements for membership students must achieve competence in at least 16 elements of competence including:

–  12 Technical elements of competence (in Key Areas 1 to 8) including a minimum of 6 Key Technical elements of competence. These must be taken from at least 2 Key Areas.
–  All 4 Mandatory Management elements of competence (Key Area 9).

STR (for student registered before 1 January 2001)
To meet ACCA’s practical experience requirements for membership students must achieve competence in at least 15 elements of competence including:

–  10 Technical elements of competence (in Key Roles 1 to 4), including a minimum of 5 Key Technical elements of competence.
–  All 5 Mandatory Management elements of competence (Key Role 5).

From reviewing the competences you will see the diversity of different skills that can contribute towards meeting the training requirements. This means that you can use work experience gained in any employment sector, provided you are undertaking work of an accounting or accounting-related nature.

How do you achieve an element of competence?
To achieve an element of competence you need to meet the performance criteria associated with that element of competence, without close supervision or regular instruction.

Your Supervisor has a key role to play as they are responsible for judging whether you have met the required standard. Your completed STR forms provide them with the evidence to make that judgement.

What do you have to complete?
The STR Forms and Examples booklet contains all the forms you and your Supervisor must complete. They comprise:

–  The Employment History. This is where you detail the organisations in which you have worked.
–  The STR1 Record. This form requires you to document work you have undertaken and show how it relates to achievement of competences on the STR2 Summary of Competences.
–  The STR2 Summary of Competences. This form lists the key areas and competences that you can achieve.

What experience should you include in the STR?
You may use experience gained before, during and after completion of the examinations. Previous experience is accepted but only if it is supervised, relevant and can be verified on your STR.

How often do you complete the STR?
STR1 Records should be completed at least annually (or every six months if you are working in an ACCA Approved Training Practice). You should also complete a STR each time you change employers or change roles in the same organisation.

It is recommended that you keep a diary of practical experience on a more regular basis, as this will help you complete your STR1 Records. The diary can be documented in any format.

How much detail do you need to provide?
You should provide sufficient explanation of the key skills and activities associated with an element of competence. Your Supervisor can then assess your progress against the performance criteria for each element of competence. Describe your experience concisely but comprehensively enough to enable your Supervisor to make a judgement on your achievement and performance.

Examples of completed STR1 Records can be found in both the hard copy and website versions of the STR.

What should you expect from your Supervisor?
Your STR should be fully reviewed on at least an annual basis (or every six months if you are working in an ACCA Approved Training Practice).

You should plan a STR review meeting in advance and ensure that your Supervisor is aware of ACCA’s practical experience requirements. You should also review your own performance before the meeting, in which you identify your strengths and weaknesses and think about how you would like your role to develop.

You can agree which elements of competence have been achieved at the meeting and agree future objectives to help you meet further competences.

Summary
This article shows the importance of completing your STR on an ongoing basis and the value it adds to your progress towards ACCA membership. To ensure that you complete the STR correctly and with the minimum of stress:

–  Get the buy-in of your employer. Your Supervisor should be aware of the requirements and the value of reviewing the STR.
–  Ongoing completion. To gain maximum benefit your STR should be completed and reviewed on at least an annual basis (or every six months in an Approved Training Practice). It also helps to organise interim reviews and continuously evaluate objectives.
–  Effective completion and review of the STR will assist your career development and the contribution that you make to your organisation. By taking responsibility for your STR reviews and appraising your own performance, you will derive maximum benefit from the work you do � and ensure that you achieve ACCA membership.

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