When Sunny Roberts graduates on Friday from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a degree in accounting, there’s no stress of having to find a job.

She has one.

The fall 2019 Outstanding Graduate for the School of Accounting will transition from an internship to a full-time position as a certified public accountant with Thibodeaux Hebert Deshotels LeBlanc in River Ranch.

Another thing she didn’t have to stress over: recent data shows that accountant is one of the most in-demand positions in Acadiana.

"You already know going into it that you're going to have that job security afterwards," Roberts said. "Everybody tells you — and I researched it — it's just kind of one of those known facts that everybody needs an accountant."

According to data from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, there aren't enough to go around. Accounting and finance jobs are high on the list of local workforce gaps, and no other job that requires a four-year degree is needed more in Acadiana.

The area has a gap when it comes to business occupations to the tune of 1,295 workers, which include sales clerks jobs. Other workforce gaps include machinists, welders, mechanics, truck drivers, vessel captains, automotive technicians and diesel mechanics. The area also has a shortage of electricians, plumbers, painters, carpenters and teachers, data shows.

As for accountants, the demand is at 46 after May's graduation of students that Acadiana could not fill, said Ryan LaGrange, LEDA's manager of workforce development.

Companies like Home Bank, IberiaBank, Keller Williams Realty and Postlethwaite & Netterville participated in LEDA's "Professional Career Reception" on Dec. 3. The event, LaGrange said, was held for graduates looking for careers and to tempt professionals who may have traveled home for the holidays to come back to Acadiana.

"These are typical occupations that are in high demand based on the makeup of our industries." LaGrange said. "Because positions like accounting, finance, sales and marketing are typically occupations that go across most, if not all, industries. So you have them in health care, manufacturing, oil and gas and so forth. That's why the demand is high."

Roberts said salaries increase for an in-house accountant, if job-seekers can secure that position. Despite the local workforce’s need for accountants, securing that career early on can prove difficult.

UL established a "Speed Interviewing" event in which organizations searching for interns can sign up to meet with students for five minutes each. The most recent event had 15 organizations participating with all but one hiring an intern, Roberts said.

"My biggest class will have 45 students,” she said. “Probably about 45 of us graduate in the spring. I know December graduations are much smaller. In the department right now I want to say there's about 700 accounting majors."

UL economics and finance professor Cary Heath said the need for more financially trained employees could come from an increase in the financial refinement of local residents. They look to the analytical when it comes to their finances, he noted, and seek help when it comes to them.

"I think a more educated population probably recognizes the need for more sophisticated financial planning than an uneducated population does, and that's part of what's going on," Heath said.

UL’s B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration ranks as one of the country's top business schools, according to its website, and features the Maraist Financial Lab where students can get hands on training in their fields. It also recently announced an online accounting master’s degree program.

Even with those enticements at the ready, the workforce gap still remains. And keeping Louisiana graduates in state is another issue. Higher wages, Heath noted, may help keep them from leaving.

"What will happen in these markets where there is a shortage is earnings will go up," Heath said. "Wages, salaries, all the ways to get paid — they will rise and that will attract people, some from outside the region. But it would be better if we trained our own."

As for Roberts, she's more than ready to start her career in the financial industry.

"I've grown a lot over the 4½ years I've been here, but I can feel that I'm starting to grow up and I'm ready for a change of pace," Roberts said. "I'm just ready to go out there and get some experience and learn more about life."

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Email Adam Daigle at adaigle@theadvocate.com.