Friday, May 22, 2009

California Conference To Cover Skills For Young CPAs

There may be minute signs of improvement in the economy but organizations are still looking for ways to save money and work with budget-conscious clientele.

The CalCPA Education Foundation this year elected to hold only one edition of its Young & Emerging Professionals conference, which has drawn some of the largest attendance among its many events. The conference will take place June 5.

Last year’s Young Professionals Conference attracted a total of more than 600 participants to its two separate but equal events a day apart in Northern and Southern California. The agendas for the two locations – and some of the speakers – were identical.

The CalCPA Education Foundation, the continuing education arm of the state’s largest accounting trade organization, has favored the separate-but-equal format to make it easier for people to attend its most popular conferences. But Gary Hammond, a program director for CalCPA, said that this year the organization had concerns that fewer accountants would be willing to pay the registration fees, which can range as high as $469 for CalCPA non-members (Members with 0-5 years of experience pay $225 unless they registered for a year-long economy package entitling them to steep discounts on conferences). So the Education Foundation decided to hold just one conference at the San Francisco Hilton, where it figured participation was likely to be strongest. Hammond still isn’t sure how many people will come. “I may not have an idea until the day before,” he says.

The agenda will cover some familiar ground. Past Young Professionals conferences have addressed such evergreen issues as career advancement and leadership skills.

But this year’s event will focus more on current trends, including social networking in the workplace and survival tactics for the recession. The agenda itself also will have fewer sessions than usual. In the past, attendees had to choose between concurrent presentations at certain hours. Conference Co-Chair Amy Ainsworth, a manager at Palo Alto-based financial consulting firm Paraclae, said that a planning committee wanted to make the conference more user friendly. “We found that people wanted to attend simultaneous sessions,” Ainsworth said. “We focused on keeping the best so that no one would have to be torn.”

Ainsworth hopes that the conference will foster “a sense of solidarity” at a difficult time as speakers and attendees network and swap stories. Although less hard hit than other industries, the accounting profession in California has seen business and the hiring market slacken, discouraging some CPAs. “We hope people entering the field and already in the field see the long-range plan of what we do,” Ainsworth said. “Our profession is here to stay. There’s still a lot of innovation out there and leads.” 

No comments: