Who needs the AICD Company Directors Course?
There is little doubt that the AICD Company Directors Course (CDC) is highly regarded by Boards, employers and participants alike but given the significant cost and time commitment, is it actually worth it? The answer is: it depends. Frustratingly equivocal as this answer is, it’s also the only decent one since the qualifications and experience of those of us considering enrolment can vary wildly. To provide a more satisfying response, we have taken that variety into account and sketched out three common career scenarios.
Advertisements for Board roles and some C-Suite roles often mention that an intention to enrol in the CDC is desirable at the very least, creating the impression that a GAICD is essential for a successful application. Since Boards are also often seeking to address skills gaps, however, candidates with tertiary qualifications and extensive experience in areas such as finance, IT, communications and business transformation are well placed for these roles, even without graduating from the CDC.
The CDC may still be worth it for those with highly sought-after skillsets. In Acuity magazine, Fiona Smith notes that one of the great benefits of directors’ courses is that they help accountants get Board ready by providing the much needed ‘soft skills’ that complement technical competencies. They may also be ‘great refreshers’ of existing qualifications such as an MBA, as Penny Diamantakiou, a former CFO at Yahoo 7 found.
Extensive experience but few formal qualifications
While there are no set qualifications for Board membership in Australia, the understanding of governance embedded in tertiary qualifications is considered essential. It is for this reason that candidates with few or no formal qualifications but a strong career history may benefit most from completing the CDC. In addition to providing graduates with formal recognition of competencies in key areas, the CDC is widely praised for creating knowledge sharing as well as networking opportunities.
Strong formal qualifications but little experience
Generally speaking, Boards value expertise and experience over qualifications which is why Penny Diamantakiou believes that the CDC is more valuable for experienced professionals in their 40s and 50s than for those just starting out in their careers. At the same time, completing the CDC can, in itself, count as experience. At the age of 22, Duku Forè, the founder of HnH Wholesalers and Rich Dreams, was the youngest to pass the course – and he rates it highly.
Its reputation alone may be reason enough to enrol, but there is some criticism of the CDC. Justin Davies at Emergination feels that graduates should receive a mark for the exam and assignment. ‘A very small per centage of the national graduates are awarded a distinction, however, there is no feedback at all,’ he observes. Concerns have also been raised about the course content. The Australian Financial Review’s Joanne Gray notes that when she took the course in 2017, a number of participants queried the focus on risk management in an environment that demanded innovation and growth. That sentiment is echoed in ‘Three Contradictions in Australian Director Education’, where the lawyer and theorist Peter Tunjic writes that Australian director education ‘should be grounded in leadership and value creation’ rather than in a ‘neo classical model of corporate governance that values managerialism and value protection above all else.’
Overwhelmingly, though, responses to the AICD CDC are positive with even critics such as Davies describing themselves as ‘walking advertisements’ for the course. By providing formal recognition as well as professional development and opportunities for networking, the CDC is probably most beneficial to those lacking tertiary qualifications but it clearly delivers palpable value for highly qualified and inexperienced participants too.
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Justin Davies, ‘AICD Company Directors Course’, Emergination, 12/05/2021, https://emergination.com.au/aicd-company-directors-course/
Duku Forè, ‘AICD Company Directors Course Review: My Experience’, LinkedIn Pulse, April 20th, 2020, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/aicd-company-directors-course-review-my-experience-duku-forè-gaicd/
Joanne Gray, ‘What it’s really like at the Australian Institute of Directors’ director school’, Australian Financial Review, 21/02/2017, https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/management/directors-focus-on-risk-but-learn-they-have-to-make-time-for-strategy-20170221-guhj9n
Fiona Smith, ‘Director Courses Help Accountants Get Board Ready’, Acuity, 26/04/2019, https://www.acuitymag.com/business/director-courses-help-accountants-get-board-ready
Peter Tunjic, ‘Three Contradictions in Australian Company Director Education’, On Directorship, March 5th, 2019, https://ondirectorship.com/ondirectorship/2019-5