The Generation Next program initiated by WCOA is a world-first opportunity for more than 200 young accountants to rub shoulders with some of the world’s best accounting professionals.
The one-day program run by Olwyn Connolly, Leader of Engagement and Innovation at Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand, aligned with the theme of the final day of WCOA 2018 – “the future of the profession”.
It was created for graduates and early career accountants who are Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand provisional members, CPA Australia associate members or those who have recently completed their designation with up to five years tenure as a member of either organisation.
While similar initiatives have been attempted, such as at WCOA 2010 held in Malaysia where students from their local university where invited to sit in some of the sessions, there has never been a WCOA program dedicated to emerging accountants.
“It’s certainly the first time there has been a bespoke program for young professionals considered and executed at WCOA,” Connolly said.
She hoped it provides Generation Next delegates with an “opportunity to hear from global world-class leaders … and a tangible feeling of being at an event at this size and scale you know, rubbing shoulders with the people from different industries, different businesses, people who have done it already.
“University is great, but until you’re actually there living, breathing it, and understanding the pressure of managers, stakeholders, working in teams, you can’t possibly get that experience anywhere else. Our Generation Next program is about the real world.
Following a 9.45am registration, Generation Next delegates had headshots taken for LinkedIn, were presented with books, such as Paul Kofman and Clare Payne’s A Matter of Trust, and had intimate group sessions with Sequel’s CFO David Boyar and Knight Partners CEO Peter Knight.
Connolly said these facilitated networking sessions allowed young accountants to “connect with some of the influencers”.
Generation Next delegate Rob Crossing, from Macquarie Group Australia, said it was the “calibre of the speakers” and insights into “what they think the future of the accounting profession is going to be” that attracted him to the program.
“It’s always good to engage younger CAs and accountants in any way possible, and if that is through discounting the price for a day of the congress, it’s a good way to go about it,” said Chris Lawry, another Generation Next delegate and Senior Financial Accountant at Gallagher.
In addition to a packed schedule, the program included a “Next Generation Amazing Race”. The challenge required Generation Next delegates to answer five questions, with answers hidden at sponsor stands such SAP Concur, Calumo and CPA in the exhibition centre. Delegates had the chance to win a two-day trip to Cairns thanks to WCOA airline partner Qantas.
The WCOA session that attracted the most young faces included “Young accountants changing the world”. It included PwC’s Indigenous Consultant Shelley Cable, Invictus Games Sydney CFO Charlotte Hayes and Fonterra General Manager Priya Singh. Facilitator Holly Ransom said it was one of the most “energising and inspiring sessions”.
Cable reminded the audience that “when all of you leave today, I hope you don’t look at accounting as a way to earn your income, or become content just working nine to five for the rest of [your] lives. With the knowledge that we’re so blessed to have, it’s actually our obligation to do something more with it.”