Global tech company NEC Australia likes Wollongong’s advantage and is growing

NEC Australia likes Wollongong's advantage and is looking for more office space as it grows

Advantage Wollongong: NEC Australia Wollongong general manager Martin Braithwaite says it is important for him to be able to offer more big city jobs in the Illawarra. Picture: Sylvia Liber


In 2016 NEC Australia invested $25 million in Wollongong to open a Wollongong office that has created 130 new technology related jobs in the city.

The ICT solutions and services company has injected more than $40 million into the Illawarra economy during the last three years and plans to be here for some time.

NEC Australia’s major service hub is continuing to expand through diversification and is looking at more office space for its growing workforce.

General manager Martin Braithwaite is the leader behind the Wollongong operation and said the business is always looking for new contracts.

A man with 25 years experience in the sector in Australia, Sweden and the United States he has been at the helm locally since October 2016.

Mr Braithwaite said he and NEC enjoy being a part of the city of innovation. He said it is a very exciting place to be and will only increase its reputation for innovation and research.

“Personally it was the best move I have made for a long time. I have lived in many places around the world and I love this place,” he said.

“The transformation of Wollongong from what it was to what it is today is a remarkable change. I see it only getting better with the university really pushing growth within the innovation centre and the region.

“One of the biggest pluses when I moved here was being located on UOW’s Innovation Campus. What NEC is doing in the innovation space is we are moving more into biometric security, artificial intelligence, 5G and the Internet of Things. Being located in the innovation campus gives us that sense of community with innovation”.

Mr Braithwaite said NEC Australia has built a centre of excellence hub for NEC. The Melbourne office is the head office, Adelaide is a large engineering office and the Wollongong operation is where the main contract to date has been to support transport for NSW. The other centres support Wollongong in that.

He said Wollongong was a great place for NEC to expand and tap into what is happening at the innovation campus. “We need to work much more closely with whats going on within those startups”.

Mr Braithwaite said by moving more into the digital evolution it meant things like artifical intelligence and machine learning were really starting to mature. “NEC from a global perspective is one of the leaders in that”.

That means there will be new opportunities with a growing demand for new workers in emerging areas.

Mr Braithwaite said NEC’s location in Wollongong put it in an excellent position to tap into graduates from UOW.

Which is why the company is taking part in recruitment expos they run.

“We think it is extremely important to bring new talent onboard,” he said.

Having companies such as NEC Australia in Wollongong means graduates can embark on challenging careers and work on ground-breaking and globally significant projects in their home town.

“It is so important for me to be able to offer big city jobs to a regional centre,” Mr Braithwaite said.

“One of the things I have found since moving here is the sense of community which translates into a higher retention rate. Often these young people have grown up together, gone to the same school together and know each other which is a big plus.”

As NEC Australia increasingly moves into other project areas having a big impact on the IT industry, such as building Safer Cities, biometrics, security and digital transformation, it will move more from an IT support structure to a business structure.

That will allow it to work more closely with other businesses on their IT strategies, automation and biometric security.

Mr Braithwaite said another great thing about Wollongong was it is not only promoting itself as a city of innovation. The recent 10 year economic development plan released by Wollongong City Council is an example of how the city is looking at how it can grow innovatively.

And it is the unique position of being able to do that as regional centre that can capitalise on being so close to Sydney.

Mr Braithwaite said being able to employ more than 90 per cent of its staff locally has made Wollongong a real success story for NEC.

He thinks other large companies would be crazy not to follow NEC’s lead and locate significant parts of their business to Wollongong. As well as other major regional centres with similar advantages such as Geelong.

“Wollongong put its foot in the front door really quickly with this innovation centre which makes it very attractive for IT companies,” Mr Braithwaite said.

“And other regional centres are looking at the model Wollongong has built that works very closely with the university”.

Mr Braithwaite’s prediction for the next decade is that Wollongong’s innovation centre will grow enormously.

And as businesses such as NEC Australia grow into new areas it will provide massive opportunities for those well placed to take advantage.

“Things like 5G will open up a whole different way of working,” Mr Braithwaite said.

“So we are looking at what is coming up.

“And the idea of having to go to an office in a big city to do your work will absolutely disappear. You will be able to work anywhere at anytime. And that is what we are seeing. And that opens up a huge workforce capability within this region”.

Mr Braithwaite said that means many of the 20,000 people who commute to Sydney won’t have to any more.

“Why would you sit in that traffic if you don’t have to,” he said.

“Wollongong has a much better opportunity because of the way it is built to take advantage of that gig economy where people can work wherever using the technologies that are coming on board now.”

Mr Braithwaite warned innovation will be disruptive to the workforce we have today.

But in a city that embraces change like Wollongong that is much less of a problem.

“One of the things we are doing at NEC is training up our people,” he said.

“What we see as happening over the next 10 years is the lower level jobs will be taken over by automation.

“What we have to do now is to train those people who can run those automation technologies so they are able to support the back end.

“There is a change in the type of roles that are coming up and we are talking to the university about new roles such a cognitive engineers, robotic process scriptors and artifical intelligence language technicians”.

The changes happening in the workforce means new skill sets and training is going to be required in the IT industry.

“Innovation doesn’t stop. You have got to keep up with what is going on”.

Mr Braithwaite said the combination of experience and trying to stay at the cutting edge all the time made his life and job exciting.

And the added bonus was Wollongong provided an extremely good environment from a work-life balance point of view.

“The little things like the 10 minute travel to work, the free bus service and all the other things you have here add up to a much better work-life balance than I have ever seen in Canberra, Melbourne and any other place,” he said.

One thing Mr Braithwaite will never do is take a city that embraces innovation, change and has such a great lifestyle for granted.

And that is Wollongong’s advantage. And while it will keep growing in the digital transformation age.

Source article: NEC Australia likes Wollongong’s advantage and is looking for more office space as it grows, Illawarra Mercury

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