Investing in the future

written by Matthew Pawson CTA *

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash
Last month, I had the privilege of attending, with most of my National Council colleagues, the funeral of the late Gordon Cooper AM CTA (Life). I was heartened to hear of the love and commitment Gordon had for his family, and also for wine, cheese and classic cars!

However, as we all know, there was so much more than that to celebrate from the life of Gordon Cooper. One of his greatest passions, and his greatest contributions to the tax profession, was his exceeding generosity as a teacher and mentor to many young tax professionals coming through the system over the course of many years.

In my own work as a lawyer, I am responsible for training and mentoring the graduate lawyers in our firm who are commencing their careers in the law. So I share that vision and passion from first-hand experience. In my view, it is very much incumbent on those of us who are able to provide opportunities for employment, training and mentoring for the next generation of practitioners, particularly in the complex world of tax.

Invest in training

All this has caused me to reflect on just how important it is to invest in the future of the profession by providing quality training opportunities. University learning is important, but there is no substitute for the valuable education, experience and skill that come from hands-on training in the workplace. The development of the essential technical and soft skills required to become effective practitioners is facilitated best when coupled with the complimentary experience of making it count for a real client.

In my experience, if you look at a dollar-for-dollar return on investment, one of the most effective investments we can make in business is in education — for ourselves and for our staff. That return on investment is maximised when we leverage our service offerings off high-quality, effective training opportunities for young practitioners that accelerate and enhance their ability to provide substantive value-adding advice to clients.

To boil it right down to rudimentary commercial principles, the greater the ability of younger practitioners to provide high-level advisory services, at higher charge-out rates, the greater (and sooner) the financial return to the principals will be realised over time.

Invest in GDATL

With this in mind, I commend to all practitioners — both employers, in respect of their employees, and employees directly — The Tax Institute’s Graduate Diploma of Advance Taxation Law (GDATL) offered through a range of compulsory and elective subjects.

The Institute’s structured education offerings are approximately 10 years old now and, with Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency certification underpinning the GDATL, we have developed a highly effective, efficient offering. I have also observed, first hand, the commitment and passion of the executive team, led by Alexandra Wilson (while also acknowledging the important genesis and development work of Ruth Ferraro before her), to delivering an education program without peer.

I have also received a wide range of feedback about just how useful the Institute’s education offerings are to practitioners, including comments to the effect that the GDATL is the most practical offering in the marketplace, delivering work-ready graduates into the workplace.

I encourage employers and employees alike who have considered the potential benefits of the GDATL program to take the next step and enrol.

Invest in technology

Running in parallel to education is the now ever-present imperative to stay ahead of the game on the technology front. We have all observed the importance of ensuring that our systems are stable and reliable and as protected from cyber-intrusion as possible.

More than that, however, our next-gen employees and our clients expect us to be at the forefront of the technology race. Early adopters will inevitably reap the rewards of technology investment as the rate of technology development continues to explode exponentially.

To become truly future-ready, technology integration has to become a standing agenda item on all strategic planning agendas, and a feature of all budget forecasts.

Invest in mentoring

Finally, I cannot overstate the immeasurable benefit to young practitioners of one-on-one mentoring relationships with senior practitioners. Even with all the training in the world, and the adoption of technology systems, the single most valuable asset in the modern workplace remains the human relationships — something that will never be fully replicated by artificial intelligence.

Young practitioners thrive when they have a strong, meaningful working relationship with a mentor whom they respect and admire. And the benefits for the mentor can be reciprocal.

There is just something innately satisfying about passing on valuable knowledge to the next generation. It’s something that Gordon Cooper knew all about.

* Matthew Pawson is The Tax Institute’s President. This article was first published in the August issue of the Institute’s member-only Taxation in Australia journal.

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