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Tom’s new role for Masterton

Tom Hullena at Makoura College in 2014, when he was presented with this korowai or cloak. PHOTO/FILE

By Gerald Ford

Education visionary Tom Hullena NZOM, says his new Masterton role is an exciting chance to work closer to home and to “have some levers pulled closer to where they’re needed”.

Mr Hullena, who last month received the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to education, has been hired by Masterton District Council in the role of special projects leader for education and community development.

Mr Hullena said he was excited with the council’s Long Term Plan goal to make Masterton an “education centre of excellence” – which it will be his role to lead.

“At my stage in life you want to be doing something purposeful and meaningful … and what’s purposeful and meaningful for me is the chance to do something to enhance the wellbeing of others.”

“In the council Long Term Plan there is a focus on these four wellbeings.”

Mr Hullena said his work at Makoura College from 2009 to 2015 had some similarities to his new position.
“In terms of any leadership role there are certain processes and people skills that make a difference,” Mr Hullena said.

“I think those things are transferable.”

Mr Hullena said regions can work together to develop education better than having rules imposed from outside.

“In the quickly changing and dynamic world of work which 70% of our students are going into, how well are schools preparing students?” Mr Hullena asked.

“There is also a need to better align schools with the needs of the workplace.”

Mr Hullena said work is important “for all of us to survive in a positive way” and education needed to prepare people for this.

“It’s important for our individuals and for our future. You’ve got to get people prepared. The community cannot afford to have high levels of dependency,” he said.

This year Mr Hullena has been employed as the chairman of a Youth Education, Training and Employment community partnership for the greater Wellington region – which has also some overlaps with his new role.

“Employers have been saying our young people are not work ready,” Mr Hullena said.

“How can we work collectively to develop the potential of our young people, or as many of them as possible?”

Mr Hullena said a lot of work had been done in identifying what young people needed to be ready for work.

“Technical skills are sometimes better learned in the workplace,” Mr Hullena said, but there is “a combination of soft skills that transfer across workplaces”.

“These soft skills are also good for a community or a family. They’re not everything you need for a holistic well-rounded individual, but a number of them fit in that space.”

Those skills include communication over a range of formats, “co-operation and collaboration with others – and with others of difference”, resilience, and self-management.

Also included is “a sense of agency – a belief in yourself and that you can make a difference”.

“We’re wanting to grow that framework in teachers, schools, employers, students and parents… so we’re more likely to develop them (the skills) in our young people – and our older people.

“They’re competencies that make us good human beings as well.”

The YETE partnership is hosting a seminar on the topic for schools and community groups on November 14 and 15.


  1. Good Article,
    Ask any hiring manager why most sales people fail and they will invariably chalk it up to weak “soft skills” rather than a lack of the technical qualifications. This is not because the technical abilities are not important. It is simply due to the fact that soft skills are primarily natural to the person whereas the technical abilities can be learned. For decades many companies have used tests to identify the underlying personality traits of sales people. I have noticed more and more over the last couple of years that hiring managers are using our tests to evaluate candidates for many non-sales roles. I believe this is a very healthy development as it will reduce job turnover and increase the likelihood that the new employee will succeed. This is a win-win situation since it does mean that more employees will be satisfied in their roles.

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