Companies race to lure BYU CPA grads

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    By Steve Nye

    Seconds on the stopwatch continue to tick away as students race around the car. One student is on the jack, two on the air guns and two on the tires. The pit crew captain shouts orders for the team to hurry.

    ?Clear!? and the car is dropped to the ground. The engine races and the driver speeds away.

    Two weeks ago, 265 accounting students entering their junior core became members of a NASCAR pit crew, an event sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the major accounting firms in the nation.

    Though the event was used primarily for team building, the NASCAR pit crew experience illustrates one of many steps corporations are taking to woo potential hires from BYU campus.

    Every year, the largest four accounting firms, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Enrst & Young, KPMG Int., and Deloitte, spend millions of dollars collectively on their recruiting efforts at BYU.

    ?We?re always competing with the big four firms to recruit from BYU,? said Kenya Haupt, lead recruiter for PricewaterhouseCoopers. ?We get more than our fair share of BYU students, and we relate that to being on campus regularly and building relationships with faculty and students.?

    The week before the pit crew challenge, PricewaterhouseCoopers hosted a comedy dinner show with more than 600 accounting students in attendance. In the spring, they will take first-round interview students skiing for a day at Sundance. Students also have the opportunity to enter a vacation contest worth $3,000.

    CPA firms have gone to great lengths such as these to hire BYU graduates.

    ?Over the last six years we have hired more students from BYU than anywhere in the country,? said Ruth Olsen, recruiting manager at KPMG. ?Our firm as a whole is very committed to recruiting at BYU. It is a high priority for the firm.?

    Olsen said the recruiting process begins the day students enter the junior core of the accounting program.

    ?We start building relationships early,? she said.

    Catherine Banks, lead recruiter for Ernst and Young, said the key to effective recruiting is building relationships with faculty and students.

    ?What we really try to do is sell what we have to offer, in terms of our firm, our culture and our people,? Banks said.

    On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal ranked BYU?s accounting program fourth in the nation. The Journal based its findings more than 3,000 MBA recruiter?s top preferences for hiring. The Public Accounting Report, an accounting periodical, ranks the School of Accountancy as third in the nation.

    Whatever the ranking may be, CPA recruiters all agree it?s the accounting program that brings them here.

    ?BYU has a strong program, a great faculty and a large number of great students,? said Banks, who recruits throughout the entire Pacific Northwest. ?It?s a good one-stop shop for us.?

    Bill Brady, lead recruiting coordinator for the School of Accountancy, said this ?one-stop shop? has been developed over time and continues to improve.

    The faculty meets twice a year with a board of advisors made up of accounting practitioners. These advisors review the curriculum and give input about current issues and changes in the accounting profession.

    ?The School of Accountancy has built a program that meets the needs of the firms,? Brady said. ?Firms provide recommendations of current trends to determine the current studies students should be focusing on.?

    Kevin Stocks, director of the School of Accountancy, said because of this interactive program, firms try to hire as many students as possible.

    ?As you look at the accounting program, we have built a very strong tradition,? he said. ?The students know that, the faculty know that and the recruiters know that. And that keeps them coming back.?

    Mark Stevens, recruiting coordinator for Deloitte, said the accounting program and students are very appealing.

    ?You?re obviously looking for programs that prepare students well, and BYU is on the cutting edge in designing a curriculum to prepare students for careers in accounting,? Stevens said. ?It?s always fun to bring a recruiter to BYU that has never been there and see their reaction. Most of them say they would hire every student they interviewed.?

    Students in the School of Accountancy first apply to BYU and then to the Marriott School. After acceptance to the school, students apply to the accounting major.

    ?You don?t get into the accounting program without being an exceptional student,? said Brady, who is also the director of career services.

    Haupt, who has been recruiting at BYU for 15 years, said students at BYU have a high level of maturity and professionalism.

    ?We?ve got data that points to the fact that BYU students are strong performers,? she said. ?The amount of money we are spending and the quality of students we get is well worth it.?

    Class 2004-2005
    Number of undergraduate
    and graduate students hired
    full-time and intern positions.
    PricewaterhouseCoopers109
    Ernst & Young86
    KPMG95
    Deloitte38
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