Pastel People, Softline Pastel’s  new recruitment division launched in March 2008, has found that demand for certified bookkeepers and accountants is increasing steeply as the economy tightens, the skills shortage intensifies and accounting legislation becomes more onerous.

The division was established in response to requests from Pastel’s 180 000 customers and 3 500 business partners for Pastel to recommend either suitable candidates or a recruitment agency – and is geared to finding Pastel-qualified bookkeepers and accountants for customers, Pastel business partners, and Softline Pastel itself.
Customer response to the establishment of Pastel People was so strong that in March and April alone it received more than 128 job specifications.
Tamsin Bradford, head of Pastel People, says: “It’s clear that there is a great shortage of the right kind of bookkeeping and accounting skills, and that candidates with such skills will have very little difficulty finding good jobs.”
According to statistics gathered by Pastel People as job specifications roll in, 40% of customers want certified bookkeepers rather than people who have several years’ bookkeeping experience but don’t have the necessary formal qualifications.
“In fact, 60% of those 40% want bookkeepers with certification in Pastel Evolution. Sales of Evolution are growing by 31% year on year, so there are a lot of companies with the package and not enough people who know how to get the best out of it.”
While job specifications cover the full range of financial capabilities – from account clerks and junior bookkeepers all the way to group accountants, financial controllers, and financial directors – the greatest demand so far has been for bookkeepers.
“One of the reasons our customers want Pastel to do the placement is that, often, they have grown with us over many years through our suite of products,” Bradford says. “So there’s a relationship of trust. They also know that we have a vested interest in ensuring that they get the right people because, obviously, we want our products to keep delivering for them. And, the last thing we want is to destroy the trust they have in us by sending them the wrong candidates.
“In addition, customers know that we know who is certified on Pastel products and who isn’t – because most certification happens through our training programmes. And, where we’re not sure, we have the best means to test candidates. Other recruitment agencies would have to refer candidates to us to get the same assurance as to the suitability of a candidate.
“More importantly, we don’t flog bodies. We believe that attitude and culture fit are more important than skills. Skills can be learned, but if you’ve got the wrong attitude you’re just not going to fit into the organisation no matter how clever you are with the product.
“So, it is important to us that we spend time matching the candidates not only to the job spec but the customer’s company, ensuring that the customer sees only those candidates who fit the role.
“Consequently, it’s rare that we need to put forward more than two candidates for a position and, in most case, we are able to place one of the two.”
Pastel People insists on rigorous one-on-one interviews for all candidates, conducted face to face in Gauteng and telephonically for other regions. All references are checked thoroughly. In July 2008 a psychometric specialist will be brought on board.
“Because of the shortage of the right skills, we’re making it easier for people to acquire those skills by running a part-time, 12-week, modular course every Saturday at our campus in Sandton, starting with a pilot course in October,” Bradford says.
“The point is that the jobs are there. If you’re a bookkeeper looking for a new challenge – or want to become a consultant for Pastel or one of our business partners – you’ll be that much more marketable with the relevant certification.”