As published in the Mandarin May 18, 2021 by Kiah MD John Glenn

I always thought hiring grads was what the uber consulting firms did to get scale at a low price.  That might still be true of course – but recently I have been forced to rethink my perspective. I discovered that the right grads bring substantial value to both our company and our clients. 

Not only have we employed a few, and are looking for more, we have sponsored the development of the Youth National Security Strategy (YNSS). In fact, I had the pleasure of speaking at the launch this week.

This is the brainchild of Tom Smethurst and Dom Dwyer. Not sure how they came up with the concept, but if they are anything like I was as a uni student, I am sure there was lubricant to aid the free flow of ideas. 

The YNSS will select and assemble in Canberra, in December, 42 young leaders to co-author a national security strategy. It will be published in February 2022.  

“Unsurprisingly, young people do not have a seat at the table deciding our future. And yet, we’re the only generation that will live through the arc of strategic change and the full ramifications of policies put in place today. If things go wrong, we alone pick up the rubble of bad decisions”.

Tom Smethurst & Dom Dwyer, YNSS Directors.

Of course, what constitutes national security will be the first question they need to answer.  It will unquestionably be the issues that are important to them.  

They may not be right, but they may not be wrong. I hope their ideas, and their solutions, test our thinking. That they challenge the status quo because challenge makes us think harder.  

“For the 42 Representatives who will be co-authoring this Strategy, we offer a platform to share their innovative ideas. To grapple with the key threats and opportunities facing our country. And to engage with not only the most important questions of our generation, but also those people across government, industry and academia who are critical to answering these questions,” Tom Smethurst.

Seeing other perspectives changes our perspective.

What possessed me to put money behind a group of students with a big idea, lots of enthusiasm and no experience? 

Simply, they were too impressive, too compelling, to ignore. 

When Tom and Dom came into my office, they had a thoroughly researched and well-articulated executive overview. They spoke with insight and confidence on how they saw the strategy unfolding. Enthusiastically! I needed a little lie down afterwards. 

So, alongside ANU, we sponsored them with financial and in-kind support. It is done through the Kiah ‘Elevating Excellence’ program, an initiative designed to support those who have the talent and drive to make a difference – in a variety of endeavours. 

If you are prepared to accept doing something a bit differently, I am told there is room for more sponsors.  The symposium does offer a unique opportunity to engage with and support the next generation of policy leaders.

Full disclosure – Tom has a part-time role with Kiah as a management consultant while he completes his Master of National Security Policy. Hands off!

But having met the team who are doing this, now many more than Tom and Dom, I am even more impressed.

The YNSS team crossed the Rubicon at the launch event on Monday night with a very public commitment to getting this done.

It was energising. A packed room of young leaders excited to be involved, alongside experienced professionals who were open and encouraging of an alternate discussion. 

The YNSS is about giving young people a voice about issues they see as important to national security – not just what “Olds and Bolds” might think is important. I don’t know what they will say, or how well they will say it, but knowing the founders, I am full of confidence we will see something extraordinary. 

We may not always agree with everything they say, but we should be very glad they are saying it.

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