ACA isn’t just about exams: get to know your online training record and get into the habit of updating it regularly, says Nicola Mower, Senior Training and CPD Manager.
1 Get to know him
The online training file is a required part of your ACA training, so it’s important not to see it as just an administrative or tick box exercise. “The dossier is a comprehensive record of all ICAEW membership requirements – not just exams – and the content is entirely designed to prepare you for the challenges you will face in your career as a public accountant,” explains Nicola Mower, Senior Training and CPD Manager at ICAEW. “When you commit to it correctly and use it as intended, it’s a really powerful development tool.”
Depending on your employer, you will have between two and four sections of professional requirements to complete. The online layout of your file will reflect the different areas of your training, with tabs for: practical training; professional development (for those following the ICAEW professional development program); ethics and professional skepticism; examinations; and audit if necessary. You can access your training record here from day one using your ICAEW credentials. Take the time to explore and understand each section – you’ll find helpful videos for each of the tabs here.
2 Make a plan
It’s important to make your own plan and agree it with your employer at the start of your training – try our handy step planner (you may need to adapt it to your schedule if your training contract is shorter or longer than three years). “Involve your employer early in the process: show them your file and what you expect of them, and set clear milestones and review dates so you know what you’re working towards,” advises Nicola. It is your responsibility to schedule review meetings with your Qualified Person Responsible for Training (QPRT), advisor or manager at least every six months. “Like many assessment processes, these evolve into a more ongoing conversation, and it’s good to get into the habit of little and often — breaking it down into smaller pieces.”
The most effective way to update your file is “live” during your review meetings, or as soon as possible thereafter. “It’s much easier to update it in the moment, otherwise you’ll forget what was said,” says Nicola. It is also important to include anything that might be relevant, especially when it comes to recording discursive material. “We cannot say that you had discussions with your employer unless you tell us that you had these discussions,” she adds.
Remember that ultimately your file will be reviewed by someone who doesn’t know you, so always complete it accurately: use appropriate names and language, be relevant and specific with examples, and report comments from your QPRT, advisor or manager in their own words. .
3 Prioritize key areas
No matter where you train, the ethical requirement will be part of your training record. “Acting in the public interest is at the heart of everything a chartered accountant does,” says Nicola. “The discussion of ethics is so important now and will be for the rest of your career, so make it your absolute number one priority.” Ethics training includes an online curriculum and assessment, but that’s only half the story. “You can never ‘pass’ ethics,” explains Nicola. “These challenges will continue throughout your career and you must be able to apply ethical principles to any situation you may face.”
Ethics discussions should be part of your review meetings at least every six months, both the ICAEW Ethics in Practice Scenarios you have prepared in advance and the “real life” examples that you have encountered in the workplace. “Ethics often comes down to judgment – so there’s often no right or wrong answer – but the point is that you’ve explored the issues and discussed possible answers,” says Nicola. “And remember: the only way ICAEW will know that discussions are taking place is to note them in your file.”
If you work in auditing, be sure to also complete the Audit experience tab – audit qualification is a prerequisite for one day becoming a responsible person (known as a “head of engagement” in many companies). “Even if you’re not sure if the audit is for you in the long run, claim your days anyway because if you don’t claim them during training, you won’t be able to claim them later,” advises Nicola. “You never know what lies ahead and the unexpected turns your career might take, so don’t let your hard work go to waste.”
4 Make a habit of doing little and often
At a minimum, you must update your online record every six months – without proof of regular updates, you may not be able to qualify. “Completing your file online every six months is part of your training agreement and your student regulations, and a timely and regular review by your employer is part of our quality checks for membership,” explains Nicola. “If we cannot see that you have updated your file every six months, you may not be invited to become a member and your employer may receive a regulatory visit from our quality review team.”
Regularly documenting your case also breaks the requirements down into manageable pieces, making your life easier. Between updates, write down any experiences, situations, and scenarios relevant to your training (especially in the areas of ethics and professional skills development) that you can discuss with your QPRT, advisor, or manager during your next exam. “You won’t update the file until you have had that meeting and those conversations, but it’s good practice to prepare for the update as you go,” says Nicola.
5 Prepare for submission
Once your training agreement is complete, and after all requirements have been completed and reviewed by your employer, you can submit your package for approval – you don’t have to wait until you have passed all of your exams. (For those in audit, please ensure this section undergoes a final review by your employer before submitting your overall dossier.)
“We are looking for continued progress in all sections of the case, not one or two, and evidence of little and often, not all at the end,” says Nicola. “We will also be looking for clear evidence of regular conversations about ICAEW ethics scenarios throughout your training contract.”
You don’t want anything to delay your membership, so check that everything is correct and complete before hitting the submit button.
Read our article on half-yearly reviews here, and get to know your online training file here.