In a move that may change the future of recruiting, audit, tax, and advisory services network KPMG LLP has teamed up with Villanova University and Ohio State University to launch a first-of-its-kind initiative in which KPMG will cover tuition, room, and board for selected students to earn a master’s degree in accounting with data and analytics. When they graduate, the chosen students will work for KPMG.
The firm is accepting applications this fall from rising seniors who will have completed a bachelor’s degree in accounting by fall 2017. Robert Wade, spokesperson for KPMG, says the firm currently is working with accounting schools around the country to identify top students. 50 will be accepted, with half to attend Villanova and half to attend Ohio State.
“This is a new way to attract talented employees, get their attention early, and offer them unprecedented educational and on-the-job experiences that will give them the additional skills they need to succeed — even before they join our firm,” Wade says.
Once accepted, students will have access to KPMG digital tools, and between classes in the fall and summer semesters they’ll participate in a spring internship at KPMG.
With tuition at Villanova and OSU around $50,000 per student, KPMG is offering a significant amount of money. According to data from the Society of Human Resource Management, a survey of 450 companies found that while 56% offer undergraduate education assistance and 52% offer graduate educational assistance, only 3% offer student loan repayment to their employees. And besides KPMG, no companies currently pay tuition for future employees.
The recruiting collaboration is just one aspect of the initiative. The combined accounting and analytics degree is a first of its kind, too. Daniel Wright, vice dean of the Villanova School of Business, says the accounting profession is changing, and accounting firms are beginning to emphasize analytics more.
A year and a half ago, Wright says, KPMG reached out to start a conversation about Villanova’s capabilities in the accounting and analytics fields. That led to a conversation about how the firm and the school might craft a program together.
KMPG approached OSU as well, and Anil K. Makhija, dean and John W. Berry Sr. chair in business at Fisher College of Business, says that school jumped at the opportunity.
“Data and analytics is a critical component of the future of business, and innovative partnerships like this one are uniquely preparing the next generation of accounting leadership to meet the challenges of the 21st-century, data-driven landscape,” Makhija says.
BUILDING A PROGRAM FOR FUTURE KPMG EMPLOYEES
From KPMG’s perspective, the new programs at Villanova and OSU seem intuitive, Robert Wade says, as it is becoming more important for employees to be versed in analyzing large data sets and providing insight in ways that protect capital markets.
To meet KPMG’s need, the Villanova program has been customized specifically to prepare students to work there, Daniel Wright says. They’ll have KPMG data and tools in the classroom, executives will visit, and real case studies will be used in coursework.
“There’s no program like this is the country,” Wright says. “To be a leader in this is quite exciting for a business school.”
Makhija is also excited about the potential of the new program. “Whether through programs, partnerships, or research, bold thinking and innovation has distinguished business education at the Ohio State University for more than 100 years,” he says. “The reputation of Fisher College of Business is built upon the success of our students and the contributions of our faculty. This program is another example of our commitment to uniquely preparing our students for successful careers.”
THE FIRST OF MANY SUCH PROGRAMS?
Wade says KPMG chose Villanova and OSU because they are among the schools with leading accounting programs. “We are starting here, and we are looking at additional schools,” he says. Ideally, he adds, the program will expand, and the best students in the industry will compete to get in and become loyal KPMG employees.
“There is no doubt that the amount of information generated by our clients and the marketplace will continue to increase exponentially,” Wade says, “and we need extraordinary people who can utilize that information to improve quality and the way we deliver our work.”