Meeting MIT’s new CEO

October 2016


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Education Review asks the new CEO of Manakau Institute of Technology (MIT) GUS GILMORE about innovation, enhancing opportunities for Māori and Pasifika students, and what he hopes to achieve in his new role.

MIT new CEOPrior to your more recent role as deputy chief executive of the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), I understand you worked for more than two decades for Air New Zealand. What initially inspired the move to the tertiary education sector?

Gilmore: What initially inspired me was the opportunity to make a real difference and to give back after a long career in the private sector. So when the Tertiary Education Commission offered me the role it was too good to turn down.


In your time with the TEC I understand you were involved with overhauling tertiary education funding and looking at improving sector performance. I imagine this gave you quite an insight into how institutions could become more efficient and effective. In what ways will your experience with TEC aid you in your new role?

Gilmore: My experience at TEC was a great training ground for the CEO role at MIT.  I gained a thorough and in-depth understanding of how tertiary education organisations (TEOs) are funded and what their prime drivers are. And, most importantly, I worked with many senior people at TEOs who have all done very innovative things and been closely aligned to delivering their students’ needs. 


What attracted you to the role of CEO of MIT?

Gilmore: The role at MIT is in my view one of the best in the sector. MIT sits in the youngest and fastest growing population in the country. Our student population is 35 per cent Pasifika and 18 per cent Māori. While their educational achievement has been improving, these two populations are not yet achieving at parity with the total student group. So having the opportunity to work directly towards achieving parity for those students was too good an opportunity to pass up. I have worked in South Auckland for many years so I understand that while a great education is very important, equally important is sustainable employment for our students. MIT has many initiatives underway to ensure our students achieve both, and I want to lead the institute to be even more successful in those areas.


MIT has instigated some exciting new initiatives over the years, including its partnerships with the University of Auckland and its efforts to create more seamless transitions between secondary and tertiary education. What are your thoughts on this sort of innovation? Are these initiatives you would look to nurture and potentially develop?

Gilmore: MIT has been at the forefront in creating pathways between secondary and tertiary education, particularly in the development of its tertiary high school, its wide suite of trades academy programmes at Levels 2 and 3, and the significant uptake by students of Youth Guarantee Fees-free Scheme places. I will continue to seek ways to further develop initiatives like these, which provide opportunities for students to enter tertiary education and training when they might not have considered it otherwise. Offering these pathways to a career is a really important way to retain students in education.


I understand you feel quite passionately about enhancing opportunities for Māori and Pasifika students, particularly in the South Auckland area. How do you intend to grow these opportunities in your new role?

Gilmore: MIT is situated in the heart of large urban Māori and Pasifika populations and it has a strong focus on improving education and career outcomes for these communities. The Māori and Pasifika Trades Training programme is an example of an innovative approach as it combines contributions from MIT and other providers (including ITOs and community organisations) as an integrated effort to support these students.


MIT is a strong VET (vocational education and training) provider. As VET continues to grow in importance to our economy, is this an area you will look to continue/develop?

Gilmore: VET has always been important to the economy of New Zealand. As it grows in sophistication with regard to technology, the boundaries between VET and what was traditionally seen as ‘academic’ education become somewhat blurred. MIT continues to review its programmes both to maintain currency and to reflect such developments, to ensure we train people to get into great jobs and contribute to the New Zealand economy. 


In what areas do you think you stand to add the most value to MIT as CEO?

Gilmore: Adding value as a CEO is simply down to your leadership and the quality of the team around you. So building a high-performing and action-oriented team is front of mind for me. The sector at times is slow to move and change. I think I can add value to MIT by ensuring as an organisation we are more flexible and responsive to the needs of our students, whānau, employers and broader stakeholders. There isn’t time to ponder anymore, it’s time to get going and engage strongly with students and employers.               


What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge as you step into your new role?

Gilmore: The biggest challenge right now is to equip MIT to respond to the changing pace of the sector we are in. Our digital and blended delivery strategies are critical to our future success. Making those shifts will define us over the next five years.


What is your vision for MIT as its new CEO?

Gilmore: My vision for MIT is very clear – it’s for us to be wildly successful in supporting our students in achieving their educational goals and getting them into great jobs.


When you’re not working, what are you most likely to be doing?

Gilmore: Outside of work I love watching rugby and cricket, in fact most sports. I am a rugby referee but haven’t refereed for a few years due to a recovering knee injury. I’m an avid movie goer, as are my family, so it’s something we all enjoy doing together.

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