Tue | Apr 25, 2017

Jamaican Ernst and Young interns back home

Published:Tuesday | September 29, 2015 | 9:00 AMDaviot Kelly
The Jamaican team of interns pose with their counterparts from the United States at the Ernst and Young Times Square office.
Ernst and Young Global Chairman & CEO Mark Weinburger and Ronique Johnson at the Interns Conference in Orlando.
Allison Peart (left), Ernst and Young country managing partner, and Michael Williams (third left), head of the finance and accounting unit of the Mona School of Business and Management, reflect with MSBM students (from second left) Kerry-Ann Reid, Jody-Ann Lawrence, Davian Samuels, and Ronique Johnson. The students spent three weeks at Ernst and Young’s New York offices as interns. They recounted their experience at The Gleaner on Tuesday, September 15.
Ernst and Young New York tax partner Angela Spencer-James (centre) with the Jamaican interns.
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A quirky quartet of Jamaican university students wowed Ernst and Young (EY) officials in New York during the summer.

The international finance giant welcomed Kerry-Ann Reid, Ronique Johnson, Davian Samuels, and Jody-Ann Lawrence, who were the first Jamaican students to participate in the 2015 EY Summer Internship Programme in the Big Apple. The students met and worked with the world's top students in the taxation department of EY's New York office. The programme exposes high-performing students from around the world to the behind-the-scene processes of EY. The interns got hands-on experience at the highest level of professional service. The team was still beaming from ear to ear as they recounted their stay.

"It was awesome for me," said Reid. "For me, meeting the

partners... their reviews of how they get to where they are now, it was really fascinating, and it really inspired me." Samuels, the lone male, felt they had more than acquitted themselves.

"It was good experience for us. We represented Jamaica well...we represented the University (of the West Indies) well. We're proud of ourselves," he said. Johnson noted the group's closeness also helped.

"We had this bond together as a crew," she said. "We worked together, we cooked together, we had fun. The living conditions were excellent." The quartet was chosen based on their stellar performance at EY Jamaica during the internship segment of the EY/ University of the West Indies Accounting Co-op Programme, a partnership with Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM). The students do a year and semester of the second year before internship begins. Lawrence is pursuing an MSc accounting degree, while Reid, Johnson and Samuels are pursuing BSc accounting degrees.

better equipped

They were chosen from about 40 students in the MSBM accounting programme. They were then selected from a final group of 10. This is the third year of the EY/UWI co-op programme, but the idea to take it overseas came from country managing partner of EY Jamaica, Allison Peart. Having studied in Canada, she saw firsthand how co-op students in similar programmes like this one were better equipped because they were working and studying.

"I just found that when they wrote their exams, they were the top students." She explained that this was the first time any students from the Caribbean were participating. Most come from first-world countries, particularly the top-tier universities. Of the 24 students worldwide who got the opportunity, Jamaica had four.

And by all indications, the Jamaican participation was a

success. Peart noted the ratings of the EY partners for the quartet were through the roof. She said they described the performances as "phenomenal" and said they were impressed at how seamlessly the Jamaicans integrated. The Jamaicans dealt with complex tax returns, handling client tax returns. The students said they were always early for work, and usually left after everyone else. Their Jamaican studies also provided an exceptional base, as they were further along than many of the students as it relates to knowing the basics.

"The comments were about their dedication, that they were willing to work late," she said. "They said they couldn't understand that someone from a third-world country could adapt so quickly to New York and understand their culture and fit in as if they had always worked there."

"We run a regular semester. They were there for the first four weeks, and then they returned for the last session," said Michael Williams, head of the finance and accounting unit of the MSBM. "We tried to ensure that they got their notes from the lecturers." The students recalled it wasn't easy.

"We had to work full-time, and we had assignments that were outstanding," said Lawrence. "So we had to balance all of that, and sometimes it was hard to at least write off our notes." The co-op programme is geared to provide students with hands-on experience and international exposure. They are already seeing the benefits, as practical experience at EY is showing up in the current classes.

But it wasn't all work. They got the chance to trek around the city, taking in New York's finest attractions, including Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Madison Square Garden, and the Apollo Theater. They stayed three weeks in New York and one in Florida.

"We got to, in a sense, go back to our childhood because we went to Universal Studios and Disney," said Lawrence. "Plus, it was incorporated with building our work ethic and our personal development with the workshops they had."

(daviot.kelly@gleanerjm.com)