Any aspiring CA or AGA will need to push through the trial known as a training contract, or articles. Many who have been through this mill press will summarise it as an ordeal, but every one of them will have those wistful looks and sighs as they remember the good times. The truest statement I have heard in all my years in this path is that your articles are what you make of them.

It is in this time frame that the introverts and those who prefer to avoid contact with new and strange individuals learn that what they initially thought it meant to be an accountant was in fact incorrect – that we would get to spend our lives behind our computer screen and not have to deal with people. In fact, the farther along in one’s articles they get, it seems they deal more and more with people and less and less with numbers.

One of the greatest benefits of articles is that you encounter many different people with diverse backgrounds, one’s people skills develop at an exceptional rate, for some, this even shows them they actually enjoy dealing with people as opposed to numbers – I’ve even known a CA to go into HR rather than remain in finance.

One’s articles are an opportunity to meet people, to “network” as the professionals say. It is an opportunity to create some of the strongest friendships with colleagues in the firm that will last until the end of your life – not to mention the mentors that adopt you along the way. You encounter professionals you will meet again and again as your career progresses, sometimes you will help each other. You develop relationships with the clients on which you have worked and sometimes a trainee will go on to work at one of their clients after completing their articles.

Personally, I had been on a handful of awful audits, where the staff at the client were clearly unqualified or just couldn’t be bothered to do things in a way that made our jobs doable – let alone easy. However, for all of that, some of my best memories from articles were in board rooms of just such clients.

Over and above that, going through the training contract also opens up the possibility of secondment. Depending on Covid, this may or may not involve traveling to that country. However, this still provides the opportunity to meet and work with individuals all over the world, allowing for networking on a much greater scale than previously considered.

My mother has always told me, all the way through my studies and my career, it is not about what you know, it is about who you know. If you play your cards right in articles, you will definitely get to know many people.

Due to the technical knowledge required in our profession, what you know does tend to still be important. Our National Leader of Quality has often said that you will never be more knowledgeable than you are the moment you finish your training contract and this is a reflection of the exposure you would receive. An advantage of a training contract in a medium size firm is the spectrum of industries on which you may work.

Participating in audits also puts you in a privileged position to see the inner workings of numerous businesses, also giving you the opportunity to engage with respected professionals with decades of experience. Both of these allow you to learn what works and what not to do should you decide to open your own business one day.

Furthermore, there will be instances where complex account transactions or facets thereof will come up and your superiors may ask you to do research into the topic and prepare a working paper on your findings. This is amazing preparation for the APC exam.

Finally, something that will benefit you until the end of your career is the passive benefit of developing your problem-solving abilities through this exposure to different clients and industries. You’ll find that a training contract is the perfect example of the “Teach a Man to Fish” proverb.

All of the above ties together to formulate a well rounded CA / AGA, which is the most common goal I hear from newcomers into this rollercoaster that is audit. How well rounded you come out at the end of the training contract depends on you and your attitude.

Jordan van der Merwe

Supervisor: Audit Technical Training, Johannesburg

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