Martin Braithwaite, General Manager – Business Transformation, NEC Australia
NEC is a global ICT solutions and services company that employees 130 professionals at their Wollongong office. NEC invested $25 million in Wollongong to open this office in 2016.
Here we find out why NEC chose to base their company in Wollongong and how this choice has exceeded their expectations. Martin, who has also lived in Sweden and USA, also shares with us some personal comments regarding how the move to Wollongong has benefited him personally.
Q: What have you found to be the advantage of basing your business in Wollongong ?
NEC chose Wollongong due to its combination of state-of-the art facilities, access to a talent base provided by University of Wollongong (UOW) student and graduate pool, easy access to Sydney and the wonderful business and lifestyle benefits of the Wollongong location.
The availability of a modern commuter infrastructure assisted in making Wollongong a very attractive as a workplace.
It also made good sense to base a global innovation company such as NEC in an environment like the one UOW’s Innovation Campus provides.
Since our move to Wollongong, NEC has identified additional advantages including the region’s large pool of young and well educated talent who prefer to stay in their region rather than commute to Sydney.
“This has resulted in an increase in our staff retention rates due to the positive work-life balance and significant reduction in travel times that our staff experience.”
Q: What experience have you had recruiting the talent/workforce you need in Wollongong?
One of our Wollongong teams, the NEC Contact Centre, has recruited about 99% of the staff from the Illawarra area. In some cases, we have been spoilt for choice with up to 50 applicants applying for one role. Having a world class university on our doorstep helps immensely with providing a pool of higher skilled IT grads.
Our Wollongong office also has higher retention rates than the NEC teams in Sydney and Melbourne.
In part this is due to less competition, but we also find that offering big city jobs in a regional centre makes us very attractive to the talent pool that resides in the region.
Q: If a company was thinking of establishing their business in Wollongong, what would be your ‘pitch’?
Some of the things I would highlight to business owners and decision makers about Wollongong would be:
Population size and demographics. Wollongong is the largest regional centre in NSW and has a well-educated and stable talent pool
NEC’s staff retention rates are in general 15% to 20% higher than Sydney and Melbourne
The reduced wage bill compared with capital cities due to a lower cost of living
Having the University of Wollongong as a talent base and innovation partner
Work/life balance is more aligned. It is only six minutes to work for me
Our closeness to Sydney – as a travel hub is important for a global tech company like NEC
“Other large companies would be crazy not to follow NEC’s lead and locate significant parts of their business to Wollongong.”
Q: What are some of the things you love about life in Wollongong?
My top three are:
The short commute times to work
The great work environment at the Innovation Campus in Wollongong
That we are still close enough to Sydney to catch a flight, or travel to our Sydney NEC office for meetings.
Q: How does being based in Wollongong help with your work-life balance?
The short commute times to and from work has allowed me to have more leisure time.
“Also the availability of the NBN network makes working from home a viable alternative when required.”
Q: What Wollongong activities do you enjoy?
I particularly enjoy kayaking, hiking and mountain biking, all of which are easily accessible from Wollongong.
Q: What was most surprising to you when you moved to Wollongong?
The transformation from an industrial town (in the 60’s) to a cosmopolitan centre has been amazing.
Q: How did your life change for the better when you moved here?
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.
Our city has affordable housing, and is close to Sydney but without the congestion associated with Sydney. We also have great accessibility to natural resources, such as beaches and mountains.
“I now have more free time to enjoy due to less travel and the liveability of Wollongong.”
Q: What is the biggest selling point when you describe Wollongong to friends?
Work-life balance, which has become more and more important to myself and my colleagues.