Robert S. Burdette CPA, MS
Since the summer of 2000 I have taught Accounting and Income Tax classes at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC). As I watched undergraduate students prepare to transfer to universities or enter the workforce with their Associates Degree in Accounting I saw some weaknesses in their preparation. Students with no practical experience in the business world had a much harder time relating the materials they studied in class to anything they already knew. Students with actual business experience had an advantage over students who learned only from the textbooks and classroom examples.
If any part of our Business School education was lacking it was a direct tie to actual business. We need to give students a real-world experience in solving business problems that do not come from textbooks. I arrived at this opinion from 25 years of working in business as a Certified Public Accountant. In that time I worked with accountants and bookkeepers from a large variety of businesses and in many industries from manufacturing companies, service companies and non-profit entities. As I made recommendations to each of these businesses the senior officers would often ask if I thought their accountants were capable of handling the suggested improvements. When the accountants had practical experience in working within the company the answer was almost always yes. But, if the accountant had only classroom experience, often the answer would be no. The difference is how well the accountant could relate to the required suggestions we were making to bring their accounting into compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
When I look at the education we provide our business students at SLCC the one area of weakness within our program is the lack of actual business experience. We teach accounting principles and income tax laws but we do not give students a way to gain actual business experience while they are completing their course work. We needed a way to provide for our students actual problem solving experiences within an actual business where we played with real dollars and mistakes involved real losses.
With a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a master’s degree in Taxation I know what it takes to be successful in the business world. I know each student will have to compete for jobs along with all other college graduates. The number one question asked of new graduates when they apply for their first job is “What experience do you have?” If a student has no experience they look like the other 50 or 100 applicants for this same position. If a student has some business experience he/she immediately begins to explain what work they have done and what they are capable of doing for this new employer. The difference is outstanding between a person with experience and one who does not have any. This is what made me so happy to be part of the STUDENTfacturED company at SLCC.
Team work is an acquired skill that many students never get while in college. The ability to adapt to team members, to figure out their strengths and weaknesses and to find ways to accomplish goals as a team is often overlooked in the competitive classrooms of colleges and universities. STUDENTfacturED forces students to work together to solve the problems of business. This involves working with more than just other accounting students. Accounting students, working in STUDENTfacturED, need to communicate with Marketing, Management and Bio-Tech students weekly. Together they run into business problems and they solve them. The faculty advisors provide only a guide to keep the company on the right track. This real-world training is exactly what students would experience if they were working for a bio-tech manufacturing company in America today. This is the first half of the semester.
About the time students get comfortable in their assigned job we pull the plug and change everything. We begin to switch places between the business side of the company and the manufacturing side. Accounting students get assigned to the production process. Bio-tech students get assigned to do the Accounting, Marketing or Management! This is where the real business experience is brought to life. Accounting students get to learn how hard it is to actually manufacture a product. They get to see the waste materials and learn how to reduce them. They see the problems created when we run out of raw materials or when we receive orders greater than our ability to produce the products. This understanding of what others have to do to make a successful company is an eye-opening experience for business students. I am ecstatic to be a part of this innovative learning community and look forward to serving students and watching them develop into working professionals.
- BA in Accounting from the University of Utah 1979
- Licensed as a Certified Public Accountant since 1982
- MS in Taxation from the Washington School of Law 1993
- Supervising Tax Specialist, Leverich & Company – Certified Public Accountants, Salt Lake City, Utah
- Tax Partner, Burdette & Hymas – Certified Public Accountants, Salt Lake City, Utah
- Partner, Hansen, Barnett & Maxwell – Certified Public Accountants, Salt Lake City, Utah
- Controller, JT Steel, Inc. West Jordan, Utah
- President & Chief Operating Officer, Commercial Loan Brokers, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants 1982 to 1997
- Utah Association of Certified Public Accountants 1982 to present