Johnston Carmichael and ICAS Foundation pioneer social mobility in Scottish accountancy
In a move to foster social mobility and diversity, Johnston Carmichael has teamed up with the ICAS Foundation in a collaboration to financially back young, disadvantaged Scots pursuing accountancy degrees, addressing educational inequality head-on.
As part of the agreement, Johnston Carmichael will provide bursaries to two accountancy students for a period of up to four years until they are finished their degrees. The financial package aims to help with the cost of living and pay for materials related to their studies including textbooks and computing equipment.
The students, whose courses got underway this month, will also benefit from mentoring and an introduction to Johnston Carmichael’s networks.
To help a wider cohort of accountancy students Johnston Carmichael will additionally provide coaching to other Foundation programme participants in employability skills which are usually learned on the job or passed down from friends and relatives, such as public speaking and interviewing successfully.
The partnership is the first of its kind nationally and follows a plea by the ICAS Foundation to the profession to get behind the scheme and help the charity to support a greater number of young people.
The ICAS Foundation was founded in 2012 to support young people from less advantaged communities to study accountancy and finance degrees and promote a diverse and inclusive pathway into the profession.
Sanjay Singh, director of the ICAS Foundation, said: “We are incredibly excited to launch this partnership and we hope that Johnston Carmichael’s commitment will encourage other firms to come forward.
“We support about 30-40 new students annually, but we could work with hundreds if more firms backed us financially.
“In 2023, we received a record number of applicants to our programme, and I expect the demand to increase year on year.”
Mr Singh continued: “Over the years, we have seen the accountancy profession make positive steps to becoming more inclusive and encourage entry to those from more diverse communities, but we cannot be complacent.
“Our Nuturing Talent programme opens the door to young people who might otherwise have faced barriers to higher education and recruitment, allowing them to enter the profession based on their talent and merit – and not where they have come from.
“We invest and share in their ambitions, helping them to work towards their goals of achieving a degree, and in most cases progressing into a CA training contract. I truly believe that we are nurturing future leaders in accountancy.
“It is to Johnston Carmichael’s great credit that the firm is standing up for these young people and driving positive change for the profession.”
Elisa Henderson, Early Careers Pathway Manager, Johnston Carmichael, said: “It is extremely rewarding to confirm our new partnership with the ICAS Foundation. We have been thinking about how we can achieve greater diversity in our talent pipeline for a long time.
“This initiative will help to level the playing field for young people and ensure we secure the best possible candidates for the firm.
“Combined with JC Futures for non-university entrants, our ICAS foundation partnership helps to attract candidates from an even wider pool.”
Laura Mansley, 26, a tax senior at Johnston Carmichael, was previously supported by the ICAS Foundation. Ms Mansley, who joined the firm as a trainee in 2019 and is now a fully qualified chartered accountant, explained how the initiative had been crucial to her career success.
She said: “My twin sister and I were brought up solely by my mum. She worked hard to provide for us, but she had to buy two of everything, so money was always tight.
“Getting the ICAS Foundation bursary took the financial pressure off – it meant I could buy my textbooks and a new laptop without worrying about how I would pay; when you go to university, and everyone has shiny laptops you don’t want to be the odd one out.
“It was even useful for things like a new winter coat and my bus fares for travelling to and from university. Ultimately, it helped break down that financial barrier between me and my fellow students so I didn’t feel at a disadvantage.
She continued: “Having a mentor was also very important. Nobody in my family had been to university or worked in accountancy and my mentor was a sounding board. The doors that opened to me through networking events also can’t be underestimated.
“One contact I met at a networking event then invited me as a guest to an ICAS dinner that I wouldn’t have attended if I hadn’t made that connection.
“The ICAS Foundation steered me in the right direction and ultimately helped me to secure my internship and graduate job at Johnston Carmichael. It’s brilliant that the firm is helping others to access the same opportunities as me.”