Learning & Development

United to Solve an Industry Crisis

Kimberly Sokoloff participated in a symposium with other accounting stakeholders to address the student pipeline crisis.

Kimberly Sokoloff

For more than a decade, the demand for accounting services has grown, but the number of skilled professionals qualified to handle the work has narrowed. The staffing shortage has created a crisis within the profession, as projections anticipate a 15% enrollment decline at colleges and universities in the United States between 2025 and 2029.

Kimberly Sokoloff, a partner in San Francisco, has observed the burgeoning student pipeline crisis over the six years she’s been at Moss Adams.

“As a campus recruiting champion, I visit schools and speak with faculty,” she said. “Their class sizes aren’t what they used to be, and some of the students aren’t sticking it out to graduation. If we don’t do something about the accounting pipeline crisis now, we’re going to have a big problem in 10 years.”

It’s more important than ever that industry leaders support up-and-coming talent on their journey into the profession—and the American Accounting Association (AAA) hosted an in-person event for a unified approach to address the crisis.

The Pipeline Stakeholder Symposium

The AAA’s two-day Pipeline Stakeholder Symposium was held in Washington, DC, to share key learnings about the crisis and collaborate on realistic strategies to solve it. The inaugural event invited a limited number of attendees from industry institutions such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ), student organizations, accounting faculty at every stage of education, organizations for underrepresented professionals, and more than half a dozen accounting firms and associations.

“The AAA limited attendees to make sure the collaborations were meaningful, but there was still such a broad group participating,” Kimberly said. “I really enjoyed interacting with so many people I don’t usually work with.”

Kimberly was chosen to represent Moss Adams at the symposium due to her work in the Northern California region to address the pipeline crisis, which includes her four-year tenure as a campus recruiting champion.

“At the symposium, it seemed our firm was ahead of other firms in community college outreach,” Kimberly recalled. “We built an eight-year operating plan focused on addressing pipeline challenges in the Northern California region, from high school through the first two years of someone’s accounting career, and we hope what we learn can move the needle firmwide and across the industry.”

Before attending the symposium, she and other attendees gathered their organization’s actions related to the pipeline crisis and completed a survey to determine the industry’s largest challenges.

Onsite, participants shared their learnings and broke into groups to discuss one of four challenges identified in the survey. Three of the challenges centered on the different segments of the pipeline, including high school, community college, and university students. The fourth and largest topic to deconstruct was industry branding.

“Students believe accountants are boring people who sit at a computer in a cubicle for eight hours a day,” Kimberly said. “One of the reasons I’m still in this profession is the flexibility as a working mom. There are busy seasons, but I meet my deadlines, and then I log off to coach my kids’ soccer seasons. We need to dispel the accounting myths and get people excited about the industry.”

Early Connections

Kimberly believes the opportunity to solve the pipeline crisis starts early, so she joined the high school outreach breakout session. Participants in her group shared best practices and brainstormed solutions, which included the identification of anticipated costs and responsible parties.

“We didn’t want to leave the symposium with a list of solutions that no one would be accountable for,” Kimberly said.

By the end, Kimberly’s breakout group determined a need for more engaging accounting content that would excite high schoolers, interrupt industry myths, and provide opportunities for interested students to connect with accountants before high school graduation.

“Our firm has tried to connect with high schools in our region, but some schools haven’t been interested,” Kimberly explained. “The teachers at the symposium said their students would find our outreach meaningful, so there may be an appetite for things Moss Adams tried less than a decade ago.”

Coming Home

After the symposium, Kimberly returned to Moss Adams with tangible opportunities to explore. She connected with colleagues in campus recruiting to support current initiatives led by the AICPA and CAQ, including the focus on reaching students from underrepresented communities and refreshing the industry’s branding.

“Our business resource groups (BRG) have a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and experience connecting with the next generation,” Kimberly said. “We’ve talked about linking high school teachers with accounting professionals, maybe BRG members, to make our industry more personable.”

The recruiting team also is collaborating with other industry stakeholders to share best practices for outreach to high school and junior college students. Kimberly remains passionate about connecting with schools to address the pipeline crisis, and she believes pairing new opportunities with existing initiatives at Moss Adams will lead to tangible progress to support clients and up-and-coming professionals.

She concludes, “Moss Adams is doing a lot to support the profession, and I think putting everything together might be what we need to re-engage students and bring the industry to life.”

Empowering the Next Generation

Moss Adams is committed to cultivating the next generation of talent in our industry. We’re working hard to invest in our future by strengthening our talent pipeline, including finding people with diverse backgrounds and experiences that reflect our communities and the clients we serve.

Learn more about the career opportunities at Moss Adams on our website.

Go Beyond the Desk

At Moss Adams, we believe in the power of possible to empower our clients and people to pursue success however they define it. Explore stories about our professionals, including their personal achievements, at our Beyond the Desk page.