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According to Deloitte and PwC

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Two of the UK’s big four accounting firms are giving extra training to younger recruits after finding that those who spent large parts of their education remote working during Covid lockdowns struggled with communication and teamwork tasks.

Deloitte and PwC said they were offering newer recruits training on skills that may have been neglected during the pandemic such as giving face-to-face presentations and participating in in-person meetings.

Recent university graduates had years of their tuition affected by coronavirus lockdowns, which for long periods prevented face-to-face learning and socialising. The negative effects on students’ mental health at the time were well documented, and some researchers have expressed concerns that young people have been left with skills gaps.

The big four accounting firms, also including EY and KPMG, run some of the largest graduate recruitment schemes that together hire thousands of university leavers every year.

PwC said it was increasing coaching for junior staff, including allowing senior managers to coach full-time on a secondment basis. The feedback from initial trials in some parts of the business “has been really positive”, so the firm is planning to roll it out more broadly, it said.

Ian Elliott, the chief people officer at PwC UK, said: “It’s wholly understandable that students who missed out on face-to-face activities during Covid may now be stronger in certain fields, such as working independently, and less confident in others, such as presentations to groups. It’s something we’re noticing but recent joiners are also telling us themselves. They’re keen for more support.”

Deloitte has found that recent recruits had less experience of office working than their predecessors, it told the Financial Times, which first reported the additional training.

Jackie Henry, Deloitte’s UK managing partner for people and purpose, said she was seeing more younger workers seeking to delay professional exams – for which accountants study while working – because of stress. Deloitte has brought in a new induction programme, as well as training on conducting presentations and building professional networks.

Henry said there was “a greater need for employers to provide training on basic professional and working skills, that wasn’t necessary in prior years”.

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Another PwC initiative encourages senior partners and directors to “identify more moments every day to involve junior staff”, as well as providing more guidance to people applying for the company’s graduate schemes.

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