Kragujevac:   University diploma is no guarantee that you will get a job fast. Although university education can recommend you to the employer, it is not the decisive factor in recruitment of new employees. Employers usually choose candidates who, in addition to theoretical knowledge, possess practical skills and are ready to join the work process right away. A chance to supplement their knowledge gained at the university with practical skills was given to a group of young graduates from the Kragujevac Faculty of Economics who applied to participate in on-the-job training for bookkeepers implemented by the Faculty of Economics of the University in Kragujevac.

A roundabout to a job in your profession

Marija Milojević  (26) is one of the trainees. Only a couple of days after she got her diploma of a master of economics at the department for finances, stock exchange, and banking, she applied for this training. She wanted to acquire new competency in bookkeeping and accounting, and her reasons were stated in her motivational letter which she wrote when she applied for training.

“I stated that I would like to shift my focus on bookkeeping and accounting, to develop professionally in that area. I believe that every company needs a good bookkeeper who is at all times aware of assets and liabilities and who is familiar with relevant legislation. That is really powerful, a profession with good prospects“.

And that bookkeeping, as Marija said, is indeed “really powerful” on the market is confirmed by the huge interest for this training. More than 60 people applied!


Theoretical, followed by on-the-job, training

Selected candidates first underwent theoretical training, twice a week, at the Faculty of Economics in Kragujevac.  They listened to the lectures on the Law on VAT, book entry, filling out required forms, business changes, etc. In the course of university studies, these topics were covered only to a certain extent, Marija said.

“In the first year of studies, we had bookkeeping, financial reporting, but we did not do any practical work.  In the first part of training we completed specific tasks, for example, an invoice from the supplier has arrived, it is made for a certain amount, it needs to be filled out, etc. The goal of this theoretical training was to prepare us, to impart to us previous knowledge and familiarise us with the matter when we come to the agency for practical training “.

The trainees also underwent training for PC skills and used suitable programme to develop financial statements, calculations, invoices, accounts, etc.  After a two-month theoretical training at the Faculty and the testing, 12 trainees were selected for practice in the agencies, in the duration of 2.5 months.


No great expectations, with caution

Marija admits that she did not have great expectations from this on-the-job training because she was aware that the agencies are very busy every day and not much is left for tutoring the younger colleagues. She thought that she will be standing behind a bookkeeper as a curious observer who is ‘getting a hold’ of the trade …

However, she entered quite a different ‘scene’.

“With two more colleagues, I was doing my practical work in “Iva ekspertiza” agency. From the very first day – positive atmosphere, every trainee has a PC; we were involved in the work process right away. We first did financial statements, costs, etc. Those were realistic situations and genuine documents. When we completed a task, the colleagues would check what we did, point out any mistakes, and we would make corrections. We tried to do as much as possible: wholesale, retail, construction companies, production, etc. We worked with specific clients and that experience was really valuable to us“.

Marija said that this practical knowledge would also make the studies of economics easier for students. She remembers that her professors complained that students are learning definitions by heart and then quickly forget them.  It is only understandable, Marija explains, since many of her colleagues saw economics as ‘pure theory’. Namely, lot of people who finish ‘grammar school’ have no idea what is a treasury, income statement, assets, liabilities…

“During the ‘Education to Employment’ training, I learnt a lot of new things which are not taught at the university. Firstly, we did not have any practical training, I did not know anything about VAT – how to calculate it, difference between input VAT and output VAT… We received a lot of new information each and every day of practical training. Indeed, we learnt a lot“.


A job changes everything

After completing the training, Marija was offered a job by “Iva ekspertiza“ agency and she accepted it. For more than three months already she has been a member of this agency’s team.

“None of the trainees expected to end up here. We thought that we will go on further. I, too, believed that my participation in the training will only be an important item for my CV and that I will learn the trade – that is where my expectations ended. However, I got the opportunity to stay here and I am absolutely happy. I often remember my first day here. And it seems unreal to me that I am actually working here!”.

Marija said that her work position puts her directly in charge of bookkeeping services for a client involved in wholesale and retail. And not only that! She got a new opportunity for further professional development in “Iva ekspertiza”.

“I am in the process of obtaining the licence. I passed first exam for licensed accountants, and further five exams remain.  It is much easier for me now because I did practical work in the agency and acquired valuable knowledge“.


A lifetime occupation

Marija said that she has found herself in bookkeeping. She believes that she is capable of starting a business of her own but she will still think about it.

“I think I need to learn more; I will see where I am standing next year. For the time being, I find that the conditions for learning and further development are perfect here”.

According to Marija, her colleagues from the university, masters of economics, do not have any troubles finding employment. However, the greatest challenge for them is to find a job in the area of economics which is of greatest interest for them. Marija succeeded to do that thanks to ”Education to Employment“ training.


Training at the employer’s – learning, advice, job

Under the on-the-job training programme for bookkeepers, the total number of trainees employed by five employers is 12.

Ivanka Rakonjac, the founder of “Iva ekspertiza” agency and mentor in the training thinks that the programme was very well designed and beneficial for the young people who, after they graduate from the Faculty of Economics equipped with theoretical knowledge, need to decide on their career path.

“Young economics graduates know that they will find a job after they have graduated, but they have dilemma with regard to which specific field to choose: marketing, banking, bookkeeping… Most of them dream of the job in a bank and are afraid of bookkeeping because they did hardly any practical work during the studies. Also, bookkeeping is a very serious and responsible job. I remember that, at my time of life, out of 630 candidates only 10 ended up in the bookkeeping department. But, on the positive side, all 10 of them are now owners of very successful businesses and have cashed in their knowledge effectively”

“Iva ekspertiza” people say that training for bookkeepers was a good choice for young graduates from the Faculty of Economics because this “trade” is very sought after on the market. Also, for those who want to advance in their career, it is a first step towards the bookkeeping job.

“My agency got three trainees. They already had extensive knowledge when they came, so it was simple and easy to work with them. Every day you could see the progress they made and their capability to practically apply what they have learnt“.

The agency people say that the training started at the time when annual financial statements were developed, which means that there was three times more work to do than normally. It was an advantage for the trainees because they had the opportunity to learn on examples from practice every day.

First “lesson” was how to calculate the salaries. They were supposed to “type in” the data for the Tax Administration, develop orders,  may payment, and then enter it all in the books … The agency were particularly satisfied with how hardworking the trainees were while the most demanding task was being performed – development of annual financial statement.

“You cannot imagine how devoted they were to their work, how much they wanted to learn. They did not mind staying overtime; they were never just sitting around doing nothing, talking among themselves or walking. They stayed until late hours, never letting anything pass unnoticed, not any move, any action, nothing … One client, and then the other one. And they wanted to know what is specific for each client… The observed the development of different financial report sets. The understood that they better not let anything go unnoticed. They were given a chance, and they grabbed it“.

According to what the mentor said, they became so knowledgeable in bookkeeping during the training that every employer may feel confident in their independent and high-quality work.

Their efforts paid off and, after the training, all three trainees had they first employment ‘entered into books’.

Bookkeepers with extensive experience think that this is indeed a job for young economics graduates. They have a predisposition, solid education, quick thinking and working ability, good communication skills. They speak several languages and have IT skills. Senior colleagues have a message for junior ones:  if a person starts this job, learns it properly, and realise how much it gives back – comes to love it, it only rarely happens that such person change it later on.


Advantages of on-the-job training

Employers see the advantage of on-the-job training for bookkeepers in the possibility of direct assessment of candidates, their knowledge and progress they make, their work and organisational capability. This method of working with trainees gives you a chance to get to know them and this in turn makes it easier to trust them and hire them.

The project of training for bookkeepers proved to be an example of good practice considering that the participants were given a chance to acquire their first professional experience. After they complete the training they can choose between starting their own business and taking the exam for bookkeepers, or they can get employment in a large company…

“All the participants of our project have benefited from it. The unemployed acquired knowledge and job, employers got trained staff, and we, the educators, have successfully connected those two parties and accomplished our education-related mission. We have clearly and directly identified the advantages of on-the-job training and, aware of the effects, we shall develop and improve our educational programmes in accordance with the market demands and the principles of dual education“ Mirjana Todorović, PhD, coordinator of the “New Jobs for Young Bookkeepers” project of the Centre for Economic Policy Research with the Faculty of Economics in Kragujevac, said.