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Getting Ready for the Real World

Jun 1, 2017

Indiana Wesleyan University Students Assess Their Skills with the CPA Center of Excellence® Insight Toolkit.

In any career, success is often determined by how much you grow and develop in your given field, both personally and professionally. Being able to gain an honest assessment of your progress can be tricky, but the CPA Center of Excellence® has developed a solution - even for students. 

The CPA Center of Excellence® Insight Toolkit helps individuals identify their strengths and deficiencies in the workplace. It is a 360-degree assessment tool for measuring professional core competencies, which are the employability (or “soft”) skills required to excel in any profession. For CPAs, these include leadership, critical thinking, communication, decision making, entrepreneurship, and networking and collaboration skills.

Insight Toolkit for Indiana Wesleyan University's business studentsAs it so happens, the DeVoe School of Business at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) had been on the lookout for just such a way for students to monitor their skills – the ones that employers say they want most like critical thinking and communication skills. They completed a division-wide trial run with Insight then adjusted it to fit the exact skills they wanted to measure for their students and launched it in Fall 2016.

“Our faculty sees the value of employability skills in the workplace, regardless of the student’s chosen major,” said Kent Williams, CPA, CGMA, IWU’s associate professor of business. “IWU cares about employability and the next generation. You can have the technical knowledge, but if you don’t have the skills to make it all work, you’re not going to provide the value that organizations and their clients need.”

“This project is helping us see where our students are at and what we need to do to enhance all of those prior to graduation. These assessments are helping identify areas they can work on immediately.”

Each student starts by doing a self-evaluation on their skills, then extends invitations to colleagues, employers and classmates to anonymously evaluate them. The comprehensive feedback then gives the students an honest portrait of where their soft skill levels truly stand.

The faculty found Insight to be a useful tool to pave the road for self-discovery, constructive career development and preparation for entering the workforce for all the juniors and seniors majoring in business students – not just accounting.

“This project is helping us see where our students are at and what we need to do to enhance all of those prior to graduation,” said Williams. “These assessments are helping identify areas they can work on immediately.”

Some of the feedback given by students on the program included:

“By actually knowing what others whom I've worked closely with believe are my strengths and weaknesses, I will be able to capitalize on my strengths and work on improving my weaknesses, thereby making me a more well-rounded young professional.”
-Connor Dood, a senior double majoring in accounting and finance

“I learned that how I see myself is not always how others see me. Sometimes I rated myself higher in a given category than my evaluators; other times I rated myself lower. It was interesting to see how my self-concept differed from what others thought.” 
-Amy Bowman, a senior double majoring in business administration and economics

“My results showed me how my raters viewed my skills, their explanations of why they assessed me in certain ways, as well as how I could improve myself.”
-Johannah Ott, IWU junior double majoring accounting and finance

Further, student participants report now seeing the Insight Toolkit as a method to evaluate their performance compared to their peers.

"I found that the process of being able to evaluate my peers, while simultaneously being rated by them on the same criteria, was a huge stepping stone for me,” said Dood. “It helped me match perception vs. reality and realize where I stand.”

IWU’s use of Insight has shown it has potential as a teaching tool in higher education. Its high level of customizability offers each school or organization to measure what matters most - or in IWU’s case, its “defined learning outcomes.” 

With the help of Insight, students will be better prepared for their entry into the professional world of accounting or any other business-related professions they may choose.

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About the Author
Kyle Brintnall served as an INCPAS communications intern in 2017. He is currently attending Butler University and will graduate in 2019.