Sun Yat-Sen University

This article was downloaded by: [Sun Yat-Sen University] On: 02 June 2013, At: 05:15 Publisher: Routledge Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Accounting Education: An International Journal Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www. tandfonline. com/loi/raed20 Personal skills development in the accounting curriculum Bob Gammie , Elizabeth Gammie & Erica Cargill Published online: 05 Oct 2010.

To cite this article: Bob Gammie , Elizabeth Gammie & Erica Cargill (2002): Personal skills development in the accounting curriculum, Accounting Education: An International Journal, 11:1, 63-78 To link to this article: http://dx. doi. org/10. 1080/09639280210153272 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Full terms and conditions of use: http://www. tandfonline. com/page/termsand-conditions This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.

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Personal skills development in the accounting curriculum B OB G A M M I E* , E LI Z A BE TH G A M M I E and ER I C A CA R G I LL The Robert Gordon University, Scotland Received: July 2001 Revised: September 2001 Accepted: October 2001 Abstract Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 Today’s challenging economic situation means that it is no longer suf cient for a new graduate to have knowledge of an academic subject; increasingly it is necessary for students to gain those skills which will enhance their prospects of employment.

For over a decade, a number of employers have been sounding warnings to the higher education sector that a ‘skills gap’ was emerging at the employer/graduate interface. This paper highlights one strategy that attempts to facilitate the development of transferable and managerial skills in an undergraduate accounting degree. Using a stakeholder approach the adequacy of current in-house provision, and a comparison of this with best practice in the sector, was undertaken. Analysis of the ndings resulted in the conclusion that skills development using an embedded delivery approach was insuf cient.

Likewise, a dedicated skills module in Year 1 was also inadequate and an appropriate course needed to be developed and incorporated as a core module in Year 2 of the programme. The result of this has been the creation of a module entitled Business Enterprise Skills. Keywords: graduate skills, dedicated module Introduction and relevant literature Today’s challenging economic situation means that it is no longer suf cient for a new graduate to have knowledge of an academic subject; increasingly it is necessary for students to gain those skills which will enhance their prospects of employment.

Graduates are being asked to display far more than subject-speci c knowledge. They need to provide evidence that skills development activity has occurred during their higher education experience. Harvey et al. (1997), concluded that: . . . employers . . . no longer recruit simply on the basis of degree status. A degree might be necessary or desirable but employers are looking for a range of other attributes when employing and retaining graduates. (Harvey et al. , 1997, p. 63) The UK Government has also acknowledged the requirement for graduate skills.

The National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education reported in 1997 that all institutions should, over the medium term, identify opportunities to increase the extent to which programmes help students become familiar with work and help them re ect on such experience (Dearing Committee, 1997). The Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) (1997) has identi ed that employers frequently emphasize the importance of key * Address for correspondence: Bob Gammie, Aberdeen Business School, The Robert Gordon University, Garthdee Road, Aberdeen, AB10 7QE, UK.

E-mail: r. [email protected] ac. u k Accounting Education ISSN 0963–9284 print/ISSN 1468–4489 online © 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltd http://www. tandf. co. uk/journals DOI: 10. 1080/0963928021015327 2 64 Gammie et al. Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 skills in preparing people to be part of a exible and adaptable workforce. They further emphasize the part they have to play in the employability of individuals throughout their working lives.

It is evident that the nature of accounting has changed considerably, largely because the organizational, economic and technological context in which this type of work is conducted has changed, in many cases, beyond recognition (Cooper, 1998; Adamson et al. , 1998). This is set to continue, and will manifest itself in many ways, perhaps most obviously through intensi cation of work practices. This has already radically changed the skills that accountants need in order to be effective in the changed context in which they have to operate.

Worrall and Cooper (1997; 1998; 2001) argue that individual and business survival, and business and national competitiveness, will depend on how quickly and how well UK decision-makers develop new skills. A key question in this type of research is – who is the best judge of what future skills accounting graduates are likely to need? Nationally, and internationally, a number of studies have been performed to ascertain exactly what skills the employers want to see included in the graduate pro le (e. g.

Nicholson and Moss, 1990; Abbott, 1993; AGR, 1995; CAES, 1997; O’Brien, 1997; Williams and Owen, 1997; Fallows and Steven, 2000). The overall feedback suggests that the following ‘groups’ of skills were the most sought after; communication, problem-solving, personal and interpersonal skills, responsibility and organizational ability. Williams and Owen (1997) found that the most common perceived graduate qualities are an ability to learn, intelligence, ideas and imagination, and good communication skills.

Lewis and Gill (1999) further articulate much of the current thinking in this area: Transferable skills and key skills are simply code words for the kind of capability now being sought; ‘adaptability’ and ‘ exibility’ are indications of the kinds of disposition now required. These meta-skills . . . enable persons to deploy effectively a repertoire of generic and more speci c skills (Lewis and Gill, 1999, p. 1). Essentially employers have stated that they want students to be able to think laterally (Holmes, 1995a).

They require students familiar with a problem-based approach to a situation and to take with them into employment the ability to come up with creative and original solutions. Personal and interpersonal skills encompass both communications and team work dynamics, thus the requirement for team players, as well as team-leaders (Holmes, 1995b). The ability of an individual to work successfully as an individual, or as a member of a group, forms an integral part of the graduate skills pro le (Rozien and Jepson, 1985). Graduates are expected to have a sense of ‘appropriateness’ for the ways in which they respond to people and to the tasks in hand.

Employers desire graduates who are ‘self-con dent but recognize their own limitations’ (Harvey and Bowes, 1998). In a survey of small- and medium-sized enterprises, Harvey and Bowes (1998) noted that ‘employers want graduates to make an early contribution when starting employment’. This ability to handle responsibility and exhibit leadership potential is a widely sought after skill on a national level. Harvey and Bowes’ (1998) ndings indicated a preference for individuals who can display that they have the potential for leadership in a work environment.

Previous effective leadership experience intimates a good team-worker, listener and motivator, and someone who has already shown himself to be worthy of the respect of his team. Organizational ability, for example, time keeping, effective planning Personal skills development 65 Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 and strategic thinking are mandatory for the competitive graduate marketplace. Along with foreign language skills and ICT competencies these ‘meta-skills’ (Barnett, 1998) constitute the reported areas of skill de cit within the modern graduate pro le.

The arguments put forward in relation to the demands and requirements of employers should not be accepted unchallenged. It is perhaps stating the obvious to make the point that all recruiters would like the graduates they take on to be as ready to contribute to the pro tability of the organization in as short a time period as possible. The logic is straightforward, the more ready the HE sector makes the individual to achieve work competency, the less time and resource the organization need to devote to achieving this.

There is obviously a balance to be struck and it is equally evident that the more that the HE sector provides then the greater the extent to which the prospective employers will ask for. Indeed, the HE sector has a far wider remit than providing students with work-based skills, and it has to satisfy a range of stakeholders (Stewart and Knowles, 2001). Thus, feedback from employers must be analysed in this light; they are a group that is potentially never satis ed.

Indeed, their requirements may be transient in nature as business conditions alter. It is important to consider in this light which skills should be incorporated within the education process and which should be facilitated outside the academic curriculum (Nabi and Begley, 1998). As Stewart and Knowles (2000) and Gubbay (1994) point out, universities are not surrogate employment and training agencies and, in an already squeezed curriculum, the clear bene ts of skills development have to be identi ed to substantiate their inclusion.

Notwithstanding the above, it is evident from the literature that a range of transferable skills are essential for students leaving university and entering the world of work. Thus, part of the HE function in producing graduates is to provide them with the attributes necessary to be able to operate professionally within the environment required for the ‘learning age’ or ‘learning society’. This is entirely consistent with the Dearing Committee (1997) which noted that: . . . institutions of higher education [should] begin immediately to develop, for each programme they offer, a ‘programme speci cation’ which . . gives the intended outcomes of the programme in terms of: c the knowledge and understanding that a student will be expected to have on completion; c key skills: communication, numeracy, the use of information technology and learning how to learn; c cognitive skills, such as an understanding of methodologies or ability in critical analysis; c subject speci c skills. ’ Aim and context The aim of this paper is to examine from the perspective of relevant stakeholders a number of issues.

It will examine the current provision in relation to skills development, question whether further development is required and, if so, what is the most appropriate model to facilitate this. The research has been undertaken within Aberdeen Business School (ABS), part of The Robert Gordon University. ABS maintains close links with industry, commerce and the 66 Gammie et al. Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 public sector, the intention being to ensure, as far as possible, that the courses offered are tailored to the needs of graduate employers.

In addition, the operation of thick sandwich degree programmes are central to the School’s portfolio, with students on the Accounting and Finance degree undertaking 12 months paid placement within an accounting environment during the third year of their studies. Current provision takes the form of a dedicated module in Year 1 of the undergraduate accounting degree. This is core to the programme and is awarded credit points accordingly. This is consistent with other provision across the sector where skills development falls almost exclusively within the boundaries of the rst year of degree studies.

The question that has been posed in relation to this asks – is it realistic to expect students at the end of Year 1, to have reached a point where they take full responsibility for their skills development? Stewart and Knowles (2000) also suggested that consideration should be given to examining the requirement for modules at a higher level which dealt both academically and practically with the notions of careers, career planning and career development. This is a key feature of this paper: it looks beyond rst year studies and attempts to clarify and construct a model for skills development and enhancement in students’ second year of study.

Methodological approach There is a number of stakeholders involved in this area and, if substantive progress is to be made in the development of enhanced skill levels, appropriate research needs to be undertaken to nd out what needs to be done and how this is best achieved. A number of groups were identi ed as being relevant – graduate employers, placement employers, Year 4 students who have completed a placement in the third year of their degree, current placement students, current provision elsewhere, and nally the views of the Course Team.

Thus, a multifaceted approach was taken in an attempt to generate meaningful data from all the relevant parties. Approaches included a discussion forum, interviews and questionnaires. The intention here was to inform the argument from as many perspectives as possible to avoid simply appearing to be at the call of graduate employers and meeting their every demand. It is clear that their opinion is of relevance but this cannot be allowed to overshadow all others. Thus, in data analysis the Course Team was very much aware of the need for a balanced analysis and to take cognisance of all perspectives.

Graduate and placement employers An examination of employers’ requirements needed to be contextualized within the environment in which the university is situated. Thus, although a number of generic skills have been identi ed, it was believed to be important to engage as many employers in the dialogue as possible. To this end a debate incorporating graduate and placement employers entitled ‘Graduates of the Future’ was held with the general aim being to elicit views on the potential for undergraduate course improvement.

More speci cally, we sought to try and determine the changing requirements of accounting graduates, from the view of those who have in the past recruited Business School students – be it at graduate level, or for the one year period of industrial placement. The latter is often a student’s rst noncasual work experience; hence it is important that students possess suf cient knowledge and skills to operate in the current business environment described above. Personal skills development 67 During the discussions, frequent use was made of terms such as ‘practical skills’, ‘transferable skills’ and ‘nous’.

It became evident that the main area in which employers felt there was room for improvement in our degree programmes was in the development of these ‘softer skills’. The focus was on skills that make new graduates immediately productive in the work environment and which are therefore most attractive to potential employers. Post-placement students Feedback was generated from students via post-placement questionnaires. Views were sought from 66 Year 4 undergraduate students on, inter alia, how well prepared they felt themselves to be when entering the work environment.

The results con rmed the employers’ views: that although students believed they had the theoretical skills required at this stage, they felt ill-equipped in transferring these skills into the practical work situation. Provision within other universities Before embarking upon a possible solution to the above issues, information was sought from other UK Business Schools eliciting information on the teaching of the skills identi ed above, with a view to drawing on examples of best practice.

A questionnaire was designed and distributed, using the BABSIP (British Association for Business Studies Industrial Placements) mailbase, to which 18 member institutions responded. The questionnaire examined current methods of placement preparation and teaching practical business skills, the adequacy of any provision, together with examples of good practice. (i) Current methods of placement preparation The majority of the respondents (67%, n 5 12) prepared students for their rst work experience with time slotted into the curriculum, with only 28% (n 5 5) of the sample running a speci c module for the purpose.

The remaining respondent did not provide any preparation for placement within the curriculum, although it did undertake some extracurricular activities. Although 56% of respondents (n 5 10) felt that they had suf cient time allocated to them within the timetable to provide adequate preparation for placement, the number of hours of preparation considered suf cient by these respondents varied enormously from 10 hours to 150 hours of preparation. The 8 respondents who did not think they had suf cient time for placement preparation cited between 0–12 hours for this purpose.

It is also interesting to note that all the respondents who indicated that they do not have suf cient time allocated to adequately prepare their students are dealing with over 150 students annually. In contrast, ve of the ten respondents who consider themselves to have adequate preparation time are dealing with fewer than 150 students, with two of these in the 0–50 students category. This may suggest that co-ordinating a successful programme becomes less manageable as student numbers increase – an important point in the context of the Aberdeen Business School provision, where annual student placement numbers exceed 250.

Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 68 Gammie et al. Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 (ii) Teaching of practical business skills There appears to be a variety of teaching methods used for the development of practical business skills and preparation for placement by other Business Schools. The vast majority of institutions (77%, n 5 14) used one-to-one interviews, although two respondents admitted there was insuf cient time to see every student on a one-to-one basis and that interviews tended to be by request only.

Other delivery techniques were used to supplement these interviews. One-third (n 5 6) of the respondents simply used lectures for the delivery of material and it is unsurprising that each of these respondents also stated that they had insuf cient time for placement preparation. The remaining respondents who undertook some preparation of students (n 5 11) used a combination of lectures and seminars. The ‘other’ methods cited by four respondents included: presentations by returning students, mock assessment centre, drop in sessions, video interviews with feedback provided. (iii) Examples of good ractice Several examples of good practice were offered and this generated some interesting ideas including: c c c c c use of professionally produced videos to teach interview techniques use of role-play involving groups of students carrying out mock interviews mock interviews conducted by post-graduate or 4th year students specializing in Personnel Management full day dedicated to placement preparation with visiting employers, former placement students, placement staff and academic staff all offering input focus groups to polish applications to certain companies, career-planning assignment, using the Careers Service produced ‘PROSPECT’ interactive computer package

One BABSIP member admitted that a business skills module had been piloted this year but that it was unlikely this would be implemented due to a lack of resources. Table 1 further splits the analysis into those respondents who felt that they had adequately prepared students for placement, with those who did not. The table reveals that the majority of respondents are covering each of the identi ed skills. However, only 56% (n 5 10) of the respondents covered all of the skill areas highlighted and these were in fact the same group who were of the opinion that their placement preparation was adequate. These were predominantly covered within the hours timetabled for placement preparation but, if not, were covered elsewhere in the curriculum.

This nding would appear to add weight to the argument for running a dedicated placement preparation/skills development module. The remaining 44% (n 5 8) all covered CV writing and interview skills within their speci c placement preparation but the remainder of the skills, if covered at all, tended to be covered on an ad hoc basis through the rest of the curriculum. Course team analysis of in-house placement preparation and skills development The Course Team also critically examined the current provision of skills development, and the preparation provided for the students about to undertake their rst working experience. Four areas (Table 2) that are central to the education of an undergraduate student were identi ed.

Each of these areas requires development throughout the entire undergraduate Personal skills development Table 1. Skills identi cation Adequate (10) Skill CV writing Interview skills Job search skills Time Management Writing in business Practical research skills Presentation skills Team Working/dynamics Using IT in business Career planning Company culture Oral communication skills Health & Safety Placement* 10 10 10 4 3 3 4 6 1 8 4 1 10 Curriculum – – – 6 7 7 6 4 9 2 6 9 – Not Adequate (8) Placement* 7 8 6 – – – 0 – – – – – 2 Curriculum – – – 2 0 2 – 4 3 – – 2 1 69 Total 17 18 16 12 10 12 10 14 13 10 10 12 13 Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 Includes extra-curricular activities. experience. It was evident that the development of ‘softer’ skills was a central theme. Considerable effort had already been made by the Course Team to embed into the curriculum, throughout the duration of the programme, activities that would develop these skills. In addition students received speci c placement preparation activities which were extracurricular but compulsory for all students embarking on a placement. This included lectures from the Placement Director on the role of the placement within the respective degrees, together with the requirements for the completion of the relevant placement documentation.

A Placement Away Day was also organized with advice on CV and interview preparation, and at which employers and post-placement students provided feedback on their experiences. Finally each student had a one-to-one interview with a member of the placement unit to discuss his/her career aspirations. Current placement student views Once analysis of the BABSIP questionnaire had taken place, one-to-one discussions with selected students followed up on some of the ideas generated. Five students who were currently out on placement were interviewed. The purpose of these interviews was to address some of the issues, which arose from the BABSIP questionnaire and to seek the students’ views on what they believed would improve their work performance and subsequent employability.

Current Year 3 Undergraduate placement students were interviewed as the authors were of the view that they would easily recall their feelings of six months earlier when they commenced employment. They should therefore have opinions as to the skills they needed at that time but which perhaps they did not have. The students chosen to take part were all working in positions considered by the authors to be particularly demanding and challenging. The interviews took place on a one-to-one basis in the course of routine placement visits. Each student was asked the same set of questions although the interviews were informal and discussion was encouraged. 70 Table 2.

Programme level learning outcomes Speci cation of the set of knowledge and understanding to be acquired in a particular programme at each level Key transferable Communication process skills that and presentation students are skills expected to develop Higher-cognitive Application (use skills that of knowledge and students are understanding in expected to actual situations) develop Knowledge and understanding that the students are expected to develop Knowledge (description of facts; criteria; de nitions; classi cation; data organizations; principles and theories) Numeracy and IT skills Understanding (preparation and demonstration of understanding of knowledge) Gammie et al. Learning skills Interactive and group skills

Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 Analysis (breaking down complex situations into component parts) Synthesis (combining elements to form new, coherent systems) Evaluation and problem solving (forming value judgements based on clear criteria and formulating solutions to actual problem situations) Subject-speci c skills that students are expected to develop Speci cation of the subject/ discipline related skills that students are expected to develop over the course of the programme of their studies The initial discussions focussed on the 13 skill areas examined in the questionnaire in an attempt to identify where the current preparation programme is strong and where it is weak.

All ve students mentioned interview skills, career planning, oral communication skills and business writing as areas in which they would have bene tted from more assistance prior to entering the work environment. In discussions as to how these skills may be taught, the students favoured interactive sessions in addition to lectures and this was reinforced by the fact that they had little memory of their own pre-placement preparation which consisted of two one-hour lectures. Three of the students suggested that presentations by employers would have given them more information about what employers were looking for and what to expect once in the work environment.

All the students agreed that they had not been fully aware of the career options available to them prior to their placement year and they felt that more information about types of organization and career options would be useful to students in the future. Finally, the Personal skills development 71 students were asked how long they had been working before they considered themselves more of a help than a hindrance to their employer. The responses ranged from three to six months, which is in line with the research undertaken in the AGR (1995) Report. Although a light-hearted question, the guidelines provided by the students can be used as a benchmark against which future course developments can be evaluated. The way forward The evidence from the above research provided a balanced view from a number of stakeholders. It appeared that the Business School was not doing enough to repare students for their rst work experience. It suggested that a dedicated module in this area was the most appropriate way to facilitate student development. There was a strong view that, for the module to be seen as integral to the overall degree, it should form part of the curriculum, be formally assessed and receive the appropriate academic credit. The module entitled Business Enterprise Skills was therefore introduced as one of eight core subjects within the second year of the four-year Scottish degree programme. This module therefore had to replace a module that was already offered as the maximum number of modules in any one year is restricted to eight.

After lengthy consideration it was decided to sacri ce the second year economics module as it was felt that one year of economics study was probably suf cient for accounting students. The paper will now outline how the development of the module proceeded. Initial development concentrated on an analysis of the Level Learning Outcomes, which are one level down from the Programme Level Learning Outcomes contained for the Accounting and Finance course in Table 2. The purpose of this was to identify exactly what the degree was attempting to achieve. The next phase was to locate where in the course these outcomes were being achieved. Subsequent to this it was clear to the development team what skills were not being fully addressed and where gaps were evident.

Thus, the creation of the Business Enterprise Skills module had a clear vision at the outset of exactly the issues it was attempting to resolve. Thirteen themes were identi ed and are listed below and in Table 1. A number of studies (DfEE, 1997; Nabi and Begley, 1998; CAES, 1997) have attempted to classify skills into certain categories. The attribution of labels to a group of skills did not seem particularly relevant in this context, and no weighting was given to each to suggest a hierarchy of importance. c c c c c c c c c c c CV writing interview skills job search skills time management writing in business practical research skills presentation skills team working using IT in business career planning oral communication skills

Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 72 c c health and safety company culture Gammie et al. Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 The rst stage in the creation of the module itself was to identify the aim of the module. In this particular context this can be subdivided into the short-term, which in this instance is to prepare students for their rst work experience, usually the placement, and also as a basis for further training and re ection within the student’s placement organization. It is envisaged that skills should be continually developed through on the job training and planned organizational experience.

Indeed, the development of business skills is seen as a continual ongoing process throughout the career of the current day professional. Thus, if solid foundations can be laid at an early stage, this can only be for the bene t of the individual and future employers. An important point to note at this juncture is the underpinning that all students will have in this area before they arrive in Year 2 of the respective programmes. It is evident that the Business Skills module in Year 1 has been a success, based on feedback received. However, as we have seen from the research undertaken above, it has left students a little short in a number of key areas.

Identi cation of the learning objectives of such a module is an imperative task if a coherent framework is to be created. The intention was to address the 13 key skill areas identi ed. However, to provide a pragmatic and transparent set of achievable learning outcomes, the Course Team restricted the learning outcomes to a total of ve. A consequence of this is that the learning outcomes had to be suf ciently broadly framed to cover the key skill areas but detailed enough to ensure that the objectives are speci c, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound (Ellington and Earl, 1996). A summary of the Business Enterprise Skills module can be found in Table 3.

The rst column identi es the skills that the course team highlighted as requiring attention within the module. The second column then maps how the course content addresses each of these requirements, with the third column indicating how the content is delivered to the students. The nal column focuses on how each of the necessary skills is assessed. Student contact and delivery The student interviews and questionnaire suggested that interactive seminars and workshops would be more effective than lecture situations. However, consideration must also be given to the constraints upon academic modules imposed by the university. This means that a balance must be struck between formal delivery of information in lecture format and participative classes.

The university standard is for each module to be allocated 150 hours in total, although this is then broken down to teaching time, private study time, time for assessment preparation and nally, the assessments themselves. It was therefore necessary to construct a timetable which would allow adequate time for delivering the programme using the perceived most effective methods, balanced with allocating suf cient time for private study and assessment preparation. The module therefore allocates 48 hours for teaching using a combination of approaches with the remaining 102 hours being split between private study time, group preparation and coursework preparation. The module is delivered in exactly the same way for students about to embark on a period of industrial placement and for those who will remain at the university for Year 3 of studies.

A line of thought is that these students possibly require different approaches in that their immediate requirements are not the same. This is an issue of which the Course Personal skills development Table 3. Skills map – business enterprise skills module Skill CV writing c c Interview skills c c c Syllabus content Overview of suggested CV content Advice on how to ‘sell yourself’ on paper Advice on preparation for interview Examples of standard interview questions given. Students then participate in a mock interview with feedback given from a student observer. c c c c Delivery Lecture c Assessment 73 Preparation of CV Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 Job search skills c c Time Management c

Networking and its impor- c tance in the business world Other forms of recruitment c advertising – careers service, recruitment pages of newspapers, web based advertising, etc. Business simulation to be c completed within two-week time frame c c c c Letters of application/appli- c cation forms Report writing Web-based research c Market research c Lecture to introduce topic Tutorial to put lecture content into practice Re ections and advice on student interview performance by visiting placement employers Lecture to introduce subject Tutorial on networking skills Interactive computer c simulation Writing in Business Practical Research Skills Tutorial c c Lecture Tutorial – students to collate information on support services available to SMEs Guest lecturer c c

Individual report submitted on completion of business simulation Individual report as above Research involved in preparation of report and presentation on business simulation Team presentations given on results of the business simulation Presentation Skills c c c c c Team working c c Essential issues before preparation Presentation preparation Visual aids Presentation techniques Overcoming the fear of presentation A winning presentation Belbin’s team roles c c Tutorial Group work c c Successful completion of the business simulation in teams Team presentation 74 Table 3. Continued Skill Using IT in business c c Syllabus content Use of IT as a presentation aid Business simulation c c Delivery Lecture Interactive IT Lab sessions c c Gammie et al.

Assessment Group presentations on Powerpoint Presentations to include charts and graphs produced on Excel CV Preparation – CV to include details of student’s preferred career route if applicable c Career Planning c c Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 c Career opportunities available c Professional Quali cations/ Post Graduate Study CPD c Company Culture c c c c Oral c communication c skills Entrepreneurship v Intrapreneurship The nature of managerial work (traditional v new) Cultural/structural differences between large and small companies Business v organizational objectives Networking Presentation skills c c c Debate : Multinational/ National/SME Which offers the best career path? Presentations by visiting placement employers Debate as above c

Students to re ect on cultural issues in business simulation presentation and report Lecture Discussions within tutorials c c Business simulation presentation Successful participation in tutorial discussions Health and Safety c c The role of Health and Safety (H&S) in the workplace The employee’s H&S responsibilities c Lecture by University Health and Safety Of cer Team is aware and will need to examine post-implementation to consider whether tailoring of the module is required for speci c cohorts. To successfully monitor the progression of the students during the module and indeed in line with the general aims of the module itself, it was decided to use continual assessment rather than a summative end-of-module examination.

Formative assessment is therefore used throughout the course by staff providing informal feedback on student discussions, group dynamics and individual and group presentations undertaken during the tutorials and seminars. In addition, there is summative assessment used towards the end of the module made up of three elements: a team presentation (worth 50%) which is based on the Personal skills development 75 Business Simulation, which the students undertake in teams over four weeks; an individual report (worth 40%) re ecting on the student’s experiences within the context of the Business Simulation which also draws on the different concepts of the course and relevant entrepreneurial theory; and nally the preparation of a CV (worth 10%).

Initial evaluation Evaluation of this module is particularly important in the light of the primary research undertaken. The evaluation undertaken to date has been from the perspective of how it was received by the student body. The information that this provided for the Course Team is, in itself, dif cult to base any rm conclusions on in that it is the rst time of operation and it is signi cantly different from the other, somewhat traditional, modules that appear in a number of Accounting degrees throughout the UK. Taking this into consideration, the initial tentative results would appear to be encouraging. The module was delivered to over 200 Year 2 students, and there was an attendance at 75% or more of the classes by over 90% of the group.

The data suggests that they coped well with the work and, in discussion with the students, they revealed that they believed that the key to the success of the module as they perceived it was the enthusiasm and commitment of staff involved in the delivery of the module. This was mainly undertaken by academic staff from the Centre for Entrepreneurship, which has undertaken research into the promotion of the individual and maximizing self-potential. Also closely involved were staff from the Industrial Placement Unit, who are seen as key individuals by the Year 2 students prior to their embarking on a period of work placement. Thus, input from them is seen as particularly relevant and of immediate bene t.

A conclusion that can be drawn from this is that the selection of staff to implement a module such as this is fundamental to its success. If the student group can recognize the rationale for the incorporation of material such as this within their programme, then their enthusiasm and commitment can make the overall learning experience much more bene cial and enjoyable. The norm for modules such as these that are seen as somewhat generalist in nature, and perhaps as low key, is to allocate junior members of the faculty or simply staff with lighter teaching loads for whatever reasons. The evidence suggests that this is not appropriate if skills development is to be a success.

Another feature that will have to be re-examined in the light of feedback is the assessment of the module. This is an area that was always going to be interesting. The issue is trying to nd an appropriate set of instruments that would allow demonstration of each of the skills areas identi ed. The Course Team is currently investigating a range of possibilities in this direction. However, as this module aims to penetrate into the working environment, it will be necessary to examine its impact from a wider perspective and over a longer time frame. This will be achieved by obtaining feedback from placement employers once the rst cohort has completed its placement year in 2002.

It is envisaged that this will be via both a questionnaire and, perhaps of more signi cance, through the feedback given to placement tutors in the course of their twice-yearly placement visits. The evaluation from employers should reveal whether there is a need for additional or different pre-placement preparation or, alternatively, post-placement follow up to take place. Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 76 Conclusions Gammie et al. Downloaded by [Sun Yat-Sen University] at 05:15 02 June 2013 A skills-based module is now a core feature of the undergraduate programmes, in Years 1 and 2, for all ABS students. This has been achieved through the development of ‘strategic maps’ that identify what is expected of the student at each undergraduate level.

This paper has outlined the developmental process that was undertaken in order to put in place a programme to accommodate delivery of a module in practical business skills to undergraduate Accounting and Finance students. Through analysis of relevant literature and detailed research undertaken via the questionnaire and student interviews, ideas have been generated as to appropriate module content and methods of training delivery. As with any new course, rst delivery is not the end of the process. The rst year has been critical in assessing the value of the module to the student body. The intention is to consult with employers to identify if further modi cations are required. This process is ongoing. It is clear from this exercise that a number of key issues must be addressed if a module of this nature is to be a success.

The key factors identi ed from this context are:– 1. Key members of staff must be identi ed to lead the programme. The academic members of staff who are involved in the programme must be carefully selected. Failure to do this will result in a negative student experience. It did not appear to be an issue that non-accounting tutors were involved in teaching accounting students. Problems arose largely with staff who exhibited a lack of commitment to the module. 2. Appropriate methods must be chosen for the delivery of the module. Before making the choices, careful consideration must be given to the subject matter to be covered as well as to the overall objectives of the module. 3.

Delivery of the programme should be closely monitored to ensure that the objectives are being met, with the most appropriate form of assessment being a range of instruments used during the programme, rather than a summative examination. 4. The module should be fully evaluated by consulting both students who have completed the module and employers who receive these cohorts. 5. Prior to the return to the university for Year 4 of the rst cohort to complete the module, a decision should be made, based on the evaluation carried out, as to whether there is a need for further development of these practical skills prior to graduation. 6. Further research needs to be undertaken to examine the linkages between the Business Enterprise Skills module and the skills developed by those students on placement. References Abbot, B. (1993) Training strategies in small service sector rms.

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