4B Academic Courses and Their Relevance in the Work Place
Submitted by: student‟s name ID Number: 12345678 Co-op Student at Mintz & Partners Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Name Address Address
May 11, 2004
Professor Alister Mason School of Accountancy University of Waterloo 200 University Avenue West Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1
Dear Professor Mason: This report, entitled “4B Academic Courses and Their Relevance in the Work Place”, was prepared as my 4B work term report for the International Auditing team at Mintz & Partners, North York, Ontario. This is my third work term report. Mintz & Partners provides assurance, tax services, financial and management services for small to international clients across the world. This report has been prepared and written by me and has not received any previous academic credit at this or any other institution. Sincerely,
Name ID: 12345678
This report is a summarization of my third co-op work term experience during the past four months. My placement was at Mintz & Partners – a mid-sized accounting firm, belonging on the „Top 100 Employers‟ list.
I have included a description of my office and the duties I was responsible for during my placement. To an extent, my duties and responsibilities were somewhat restricted, as I was a new co-op student. However, despite my limited role, I was still able to apply much of what I had learned in university to my work experience. I have attempted to analyze the relevance and applicability of the courses I had taken at the University of Waterloo prior to my co-op work term.
I am very satisfied with this work term. The firm and my co-workers were all very helpful and patient in training me throughout the four months, for which I am truly grateful. I feel that I was able to contribute to the firm in a positive manner and wish to continue to do so. I have not only taken back with me valuable skills and knowledge, but I have also learned my weaknesses and specific areas in need of improvement for my next work term.
ANALYSIS & DISCUSSION Office & Duties My third accounting work term took place at Mintz & Partners, located in the Greater Toronto Area. I am completing my eight-month work term, and have just completed four months of the co-op term. Mintz & Partners is a growing midsized accounting firm, employing approximately 144 employees, headed by 12 partners. Mintz & Partners is one of the rare mid-sized accounting firms to be listed on the „Top 100 Employers‟ list 3 years in a row, and I am proud to be a part of such an elite organization. As a growing company, Mintz & Partners has learned to adapt quickly to changes in the environment and is what I consider a dynamic firm. With the recent changes in the accounting industry, Mintz & Partners is in a position where they are grabbing many new clients that are being dropped by the „Big Firms‟. Due to this fact, I have experienced many learning and growth opportunities, even as a co-op student, here at Mintz & Partners. As part of the Auditing team, my duties are to compile notice to readers, prepare reviews, assist on audit engagements, and prepare corporate tax returns. During tax season, I am also required to help out with the tax department by completing a quota of 20 personal tax returns.
Work Experience For the duration of the past four months, I was assigned to the International Audit Team, where most of the audit engagements take place, not to mention, where most of the traveling opportunities exist.
I was exposed to many files that varied widely in terms of difficulty and/or nature. For the first two months, my main focus was on reviews, compilations of notice to readers, and corporate tax returns, while the last two months I was bombarded with personal tax returns.
I also completed an audit, with the help of a senior of course, of the firm‟s third largest client, where I was responsible for more than just vouching. I was out on this job for two weeks, where I completed all sections of the financial statement areas except for accounts receivable, inventory, and accounts payable. I also performed a cradle to grave control test, since internal controls were to be relied upon, which is a rare engagement in the firm. I also had the opportunity to plan an audit on my own, which I am grateful for, since planning is usually a senior position task and I didn‟t expect to be given such a high level of responsibility. One of the major things I learned during the audit fieldwork was dealing with clients, knowing how to ask for the right information and that adequate audit planning is an integral part of the audit. I was amazed at how easily and quickly the audit managers and partners were able to plan and organize the audit.
During mid-March, I was sent out on an inventory count at Cotton Ginny. This was also a great experience for me, not only to see what really went on during inventory counts, but also to learn the proper procedures and techniques of counting inventory – floor to sheet and sheet to floor. Moreover, I got the chance to learn the procedure for investigating variances, as I found a few variances during my inventory count.
The level of most audit and tax work assigned to me matched my skill level; however, some files were more complicated and required more technical knowledge and experience than I had at the time. This challenged me and allowed me to grow. In the past, I found completing reviews and compilations to be more satisfying, as I had to complete the file from start to finish. Now, I get to experience the same satisfaction with audit engagements, as I am also given the opportunity to complete the audit from start to finish. One of the most important things I learned on my audits was to properly apply the notion of „professional skepticism‟. I have learned not to take anything at face value, and to dig deeper into client explanations.
The type of training provided exceeded my expectation. A formal training session was provided during the first week of the term. I was very impressed with the training because it was relevant, clear and concise. Although it was formal, it was also done in a small group, so that everyone would be comfortable with asking questions and slowing down. I also attended audit and tax seminars with the firm, and received one-on-one, on-the-spot training from my co-workers, managers and partners.
During March and April, I prepared personal tax returns in between my corporate responsibilities. In this firm, the emphasis is taken away from personal tax returns, since they hire contract workers specifically for tax season.
University Education The ACC 461 tax course provided me with the most assistance to my co-op work term, since tax is so information-packed, and the course started me off on the right foot. Although AFM 451 is most relevant to my job description, I found that most of the material relates to a senior level position. Nonetheless, AFM 451 did help me with my big-picture analysis of audit engagements. The course ENGL 210F taught me to become more aware of grammatical errors and to write more efficiently and actively. The ACC 228 course introduced me to CaseWare, CaseView and TaxPrep applications. I found the familiarization with these applications to be useful during my first work term only, since they actually used all the above applications; however, Mintz & Partners has switched over to Profile for tax, and a new CaseWare application for audit. I didn‟t find ACC 372, ACC 430, ACC 442, nor AFM 481 particularly useful for my job responsibilities; however, I‟m sure as my career progresses, I will find that the information learned in those courses will come back to haunt me.
Discussion and Evaluation In general, I found that most of what I learned in university provided a basic sense of understanding and good background support. Upon starting my work term, I felt equipped and ready to dive into the files and assignments, but rather found my experience lacking and was constantly asking questions. Training provided by my superiors, and learning from previous files and from my own mistakes really helped me perform my job. I feel that the work term has provided
me with solid, tangible experience to enrich my technical knowledge learned in university. It definitely compliments and re-enforces what I learn in school.
Since this was my third work term, I found myself focusing less on the technical aspects of my task and more on the underlying concepts of why I was performing the task. By taking a step back, and looking at files as a big picture, it allowed me to take a further step back, and analyze the fit of the accounting profession with my personality and skill set. Co-op provides me with the opportunity to evaluate my future career on a timely and reliable basis. Now, I feel more wellinformed and prepared of what lies ahead upon graduation.
I have come to realize that my university education will never be able to provide me with a complete knowledge base and skill set for the work place. I understand that some detailed knowledge can only be learned in the work place, through experience. However, my education has assisted me in progressing my thinking capabilities, management skills, organization skills and communication skills over the years. It is valuable to me because knowledge and skill set may need to change over time, but effective learning skills are always important as we will need to be continuously learning in the future. Overall, co-op is an exceptionally comprehensive and complimentary system of learning. I applaud the concept.