SIT chief keen to bridge gap

    New Southern Institute of Technology chief executive Onno Mulder is looking forward to the challenge of his role. Photo: Elana Bai

    THE new chief executive of The Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) wants to make a difference at the polytech and for the Southland community.

    Onno Mulder started the job last week, but said he had already had a taste of southern hospitality.

    He was welcomed to the polytech with a powhiri, which he described as a humbling experience.

    “Everyone I’ve talked to in Southland and in Invercargill has been very welcoming.

    “I think a lot of that is because SIT is held in such high regard and I think people see this institution as a very successful place and one that is adding real value to the community.”

    That was one of the reasons which attracted him to apply for the position.

    With more than 35 years of experience in the engineering and infrastructure sector — being chief executive of City Care Limited in Christchurch for the past few years — Mr Mulder defined himself as someone who was passionate about education.

    Even though he did not have a background in the area, he said he was always motivated to spend time training people within the organisations he worked.

    He believed education was the logical step to take.

    “At the end of the 35 years, I felt it was time to do something different. I’ve been very passionate about education.

    “SIT has a great reputation around New Zealand and I wanted to be part of that.”

    The institute had “many great people who are well-versed in education”, so his role would be more about leadership and how to help people to excel in their jobs, he said.

    However, he believed the tertiary education review (Te Pukenga — New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology) and the industry’s work shortage were among the biggest challenges he would face.

    He acknowledged SIT already had a great connection with industries, but he wanted to enhance that even more with his knowledge.

    All industries were facing similar challenges; a lack of people coming through the borders, a lack of trained people and numbers able to do the work.

    “I think I can bridge that gap between SIT and the industry really well because I came from the industry.”

    He also wanted to ensure SIT was well-placed at the review, keeping its regional representation and given regional empowerment.

    “If we can continue to be seen as an innovator, a successful organisation, a place where people can come to study… and where people want to work.

    “If we can achieve all those things, it is a great outcome for me as a CEO.”

    The international students were very important for the institution, however until the borders opened, there was nothing much he could do.

    “As soon the borders open, we’ll be keen to attract those students again to SIT,” he said.

    In the meantime, he would focus on listening and gaining a real understanding of how the institution worked.

    Mr Mulder would be catching up with former chief executive Penny Simmonds, who held the position for 22 years.

    Any role of chief executive, when coming into an organisation, came with a “weight on one’s shoulders”, he said.

    However, he believed he was well placed to deal with any challenges and was looking forward to the future.

    “I’m pleased to be here and looking forward to making a difference at the SIT and with the Southland community. It should be fun.”