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16 Jun 2017 • 5 Comments
Last month, I spoke at a welcome function for nearly 100 exceptionally talented, highly experienced tech professionals, representing 29 different nationalities, all brought to the region as part of the LookSee Wellington programme. Also in the room were Workhere New Zealand, Immigration New Zealand, NZ Tech, and representatives from Wellington's tech sector.
It had been quite a journey getting here, for all of us, and there was still a long way to go. But here we were, finally all together in Wellington.
Looking across the audience, I saw a tremendously diverse group of people, and not just culturally. Nearly a quarter identified as female, which while still low as a proportion of the population, is significantly above average for tech roles globally, particularly senior roles.
They were diverse in age, family situation, and sexual orientation. Even at first glance, they were an unmistakably cool group. They had a sense of laid-back confidence and bright-eyed creativity that honestly felt very 'Wellington'. I could picture them relaxing at one of our cafés and working alongside our distinctly cool tech pros.
The LookSee week was not only a chance for the candidates to impress Wellington's employers through their job interviews, it was a chance for us to impress them with a taste of life in Wellington.
It's a big thing to pick up your life, family, career and bring them to the other side of the world - I know, I've done it three times. To take that leap, you have to be able to picture yourself fitting into a new place and a new community, and you have to be excited by that picture.
That's a big barrier to talent attraction, particularly for places like New Zealand, and Wellington - a city that, frankly, relatively few people worldwide have even heard of, let alone considered moving to.
Luckily, Wellington has a tremendously appealing proposition. We enjoy a healthy, affordable, world leading quality of life, and have exciting career opportunities for smart, creative and skilled people. When it comes to tech, we have high-quality, innovative businesses, with proven ability to compete and succeed globally.
We're also in global competition for talent, which is essentially the only finite resource in an industry with few other limits on growth. In tech, businesses and investment will follow talent. If we don't proactively compete globally for talent, as a country and a region, our companies will lose out. Many will stagnate, relocate or close down entirely.
Naturally, it’s important we develop local tech talent, and WREDA is working to support that across a number of programmes. Alongside that work, we want to help our companies gain access to talented, experienced tech professionals in the world. The kind of people who can help our businesses break into major new markets, develop innovative new products, and attract new opportunities for investment and growth. Those people are who LookSee Wellington was designed to attract.
If we can attract the best, and grow the Wellington tech sector together, all of us will benefit from that success.
Described as 'the career trip of a lifetime', LookSee's innovative approach to talent attraction caught the imagination of the world's tech media:
Some broader benefits of this reputational boost may not even be felt, or even properly understood, for several years yet. Effects on tourism, student attraction, and other industrial sectors will filter through, as we continue to grow our tech reputation in the years ahead.
As our project partners at Immigration New Zealand and Workhere New Zealand forewarned us, international recruitment is an extended process. Even with attractive offers provided, the decision to accept is a big one. Preparing for immigration takes time and all the dots must be joined before a recruitment can be considered 'confirmed'. Our recruitment partners at Workhere are now managing relationships on a case-by-case basis. Some candidates secured a job offer, some did not, whilst some secured multiple offers. We have had very positive feedback from employers on the candidates and from candidates on their experience.
We're aiming for an eventual conversion of between 20-40 placements within six months, with more to follow. Considering that just eight placements would effectively return our investment in the programme to the region's economy in the first year alone (purely in terms of the candidates' own spending, to say nothing of their contribution to GDP through their employers) that's a clear success. But LookSee's contribution to Wellington goes far beyond the 97 invited candidates.
The career trip was never just about the invited candidates, and their placements. It was an attention-grabbing, promotional hook for the programme, and it worked a treat. We now have contacts, employment details, and the beginnings of a relationship with thousands of talented, qualified people who have expressed an interest in living and working in Wellington. The hottest prospects are the shortlist of 1,000 who were put forward for consideration by employers. Any of them - even those who didn't make it on the trip - could make a huge contribution to Wellington, and we'd be foolish to forget about them.
LookSee's next phase is about working with those people, renewing connections between them and our employers. There's little doubt further opportunities and offers will arise from that process. Beyond them, we have several 'tiers' of screened applicants in our pool of 48,000. All of those tiers present us with an extended opportunity, whether that's with other employers, other sectors, or even in partnership with other regions, from a 'NZ Inc.' perspective.
The answer is 'yes and no'. Running an identical programme won't generate anything like the same media interest. What's more valuable is exploring how we evolve the LookSee concept.
As we continue to draw the value from the outstanding results to-date of this pilot programme, these are the questions the team is working to answer. We'll be sure to keep you posted.