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Springboard for talent: EY University.

EY University was launched in October 2015. Its first group of 44 students mostly hail from the world of finance and economics, but it also enrolled a pilot and a criminologist. So what has EY’s internal education program brought its students? Sandra Hauwert and Bas Natter talk to trainers Albert Jan van Olst and Ben Duijs, with Project Coordinator Mirjam Bouthoorn and Assurance Learning Leaders Joost Waals and Henk Hokse also joining in.

The launch of EY University is a break with tradition. “Normally, anyone joining us at Assurance enrolled in the certified auditor program. That’s how we did it for 130 years,” recalls Learning Leader Joost Waals. Today, newcomers have a year to explore the field and can then opt either to continue their training or to specialise as an audit expert.

“We no longer compel people to educate them to certified auditor, but expect them to figure out what they really want to do during their training, to choose what they like best.”





Springboard for talent
What’s more, a background in finance is no longer a precondition for getting hired, and the search for fresh talent isn’t just driven by what people studied at university. “We used to only scour the accountancy schools for talented students, but we’re casting the net much wider now,” Waals’ colleague Henk Hokse observes. “We want to attract other types of people as well as ‘standard‘ accountants.

“That’s based on our conviction that a variety of people will end up making us more effective and successful. We’re talking diversity, inclusiveness.
EY University wants to offer a platform to a different type of talent, so that they too can find a home at EY.”

Which is why EY recruiters are not just showing up at the usual venues and fairs, they now hit universities where they never used to go. “Like Delft University of Technology,” says Waals. “We think it has a lot of students that could mean a great deal for EY – and EY for them.”


This new approach at EY better reflects today’s changing labor market, Project Coordinator Mirjam Bouthoorn feels.

“People entering the workforce now have different needs to those of previous generations. They’re looking for more diversity in their jobs, they want to do a variety of things.
EY University shows that we’re so much more than a one-track business. EY University is assurance-wide, not audit-wide. Someone like Sandra wouldn’t be able to enrol if it wasn’t.”

Solid foundation
EY University student Sandra Hauwert completed degrees in criminology and journalism. “My heart’s in fraud investigation,” she says. “I’ll need to know about finance, of course, but am not required to go through an external university course in accountancy.

For me, EY University was an excellent way to broaden my knowledge in many fields and to find out what happens within the organization in the several aspects of assurance.
I’ve also learned what I’d like to find out more about and what grabs me less. Sustainability came up in the program, for instance, and it’s definitely easier to find and talk to people if you know what they’re doing at Sustainability. But I don’t see any need to acquire additional knowledge in that field.”










While Hauwert has made up her mind to continue her studies at EY University, fellow student Bas Natter has opted to enrol in the registered accountancy education program. “In the past few months, I’ve discovered that I feel really at home at Audit,” he says. “Studying to become a auditor seemed the best choice for me.”










Developing program
When EY staff Ben Duijs and Albert Jan van Olst were asked if they wanted to join EY University as trainers, they needed little time to think. As Duijs says: “We both jumped at the chance; I thought it was a very interesting project from the get-go.” “And I’d already made it known that I’d like to do something in learning,’

Van Olst adds, “so when Henk phoned I thought it was an absolutely cool idea.

It’s so exciting to be in on a fledgling initiative.
Ben and I just took on the teacher’s mantle and ran with it, constantly fine-tuning the program based on feedback from our students.”

Olst enjoys seeing how much their students have developed in a single year. “And how much we ourselves have learned,” he adds.

“Teaching has brought us a great deal of personal growth.”
Out of the 44 first-year students, 17 have decided to enrol in the second year. And the next first year of the program will see two subjects offered that are part of the Nyenrode University curriculum. To ensure these subjects are firmly grounded in the real world that is EY, regular EY trainers Van Olst and Duijs will teach both courses. Bouthoorn reckons both know better than most how to apply in practice what people have learned.

Out of the 44 first-year students, 17 have decided to enrol in the second year. And the next first year of the program will see two subjects offered that are part of the Nyenrode University curriculum. To ensure these subjects are firmly grounded in the real world that is EY, regular EY trainers Van Olst and Duijs will teach both courses. Bouthoorn reckons both know better than most how to apply in practice what people have learned.

It’s one thing to be able to tell a brilliant story, but what matters is that people can apply their new knowledge when they are back at a client’s a week later. Our program stands out precisely for this focus on real-life situations.”
“Besides, Ben’s and Albert Jan’s commitment keeps our program flexible,” Hokse adds. “They can respond swiftly to what our students need and adjust the program where necessary.”

A clearer perspective on EY
The EY University program broadend the knowledge of the students and has given them a clearer idea of how EY really works. Hauwert notes:

“I now understand the different service lines within EY and am much more aware of what goes on at our organization.
I also liked the fact that actual practice is very close to the learning environment. You get to know how things work and so create a much better foundation to embark on a master’s degree. I really appreciate that.”

Natter cites as an advantage that he now knows the whole range of experts EY employs. “Say I happen to have a need for data analysis – it’s very good to know what specialist I can call on at EY. This way you build up a whole network of colleagues from a wide range of service lines – and without even realizing it.”

Running its own university also has advantages for EY itself.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about improving our quality,”
says Hokse. “In the old days, accountants might have been stubborn enough to think they could do everything themselves, but we now know we’re better off phoning Sandra when we come up against a fraud issue, as she simply knows more about it. And we’ve learnt a lot ourselves: students ask very different questions. Surprisingly so. And people come out with a very different take on EY. The other day I had a message from someone who may have quit the course, but whose view of EY and accountancy had completely changed in the process.”

Broader and savvier
So what do the participants in our discussion see as their legacy? Waals reckons it’s absolutely wonderful to help people develop in his capacity as learning leader, while Hauwert notes that her fellow students have become much more aware of fraud thanks to her contributions. Natter hopes to grow into a broader-ranging partner to clients thanks to his time at EY University: “If I know what’s going on in the business, what we’ve got and what we can do, I’ll have so much more to offer to clients.” “Legacy is nice,” Hokse observes,

“but the most important thing is that EY University allows its students to combine talent and passion. And it’s these two elements that you can pull together here. So follow your heart. At EY University you can do that.”