Mon 14 Jan 2019

New WITT CE named

WITT has recruited a new chief with a deep knowledge of the tertiary education sector.

John Snook, whose appointment was announced to staff today, (14-1-19) will take up his new role as Chief Executive early next month.

Council chair Robin Brockie said the appointment was an exciting one because of his breadth and depth of educational knowledge and business expertise.

Lyal French-Wright has been WITT’s acting chief executive since Barbara George completed her contract and moved south to Christchurch at the end of October to lead The Court theatre. He will resume his role as WITT deputy chair when Snook begins work at WITT.

WITT’s new chief, who has been employed on a two-year contract, has enjoyed a career covering extensive educational management in the public and private sector.

He is 49, his partner is Leanne and the couple, now based in Rotorua, have three children and three grandchildren.

He has previously served as deputy chief and acting chief executive of the Waiariki Institute of Technology and was a member of the UCOL council at the time of the Whanganui Polytechnic Merger.

While at Waiariki he helped create an organisation that grew from a $17m to a $50M business and from a non-quality assured organisation to a quality assured organisation. It moved from a provider of low-value educational outcomes to one which gave the community quality vocational education. At the same time staff engagement rose to the highest in the sector.

After leaving Waiariki he set up Action Consulting Group Ltd and the New Zealand Institute of Business and Technology (NZIBT).

He also has experience in launching a TEC funded bicultural research journal, worked in multi-campus organisations and managed mergers at both a senior management and board level.

WITT’s new leader describes himself as highly competitive both professionally and in sport.

He admits to not being overly familiar with the Taranaki community – but does know the province’s waterways better than many.

He has attended four kayak world championships and as many rafting world championships and while living in Palmerston North competed in Taranaki.

“I am looking forward to getting to know the region and the people,” he said.

“I love provincial New Zealand – having lived in the provinces all my life.”

 He is aware of how the push for change in the tertiary sector could have a significant impact on polytechnics, and as one of the smallest in the country, WITT faces a challenging future.

Snook says he will initially “watch WITT in action” and listen to staff and stakeholders.

 “The fact I am new on the Taranaki scene has some advantages in that I do not arrive with any preconceptions.”

He will continue the push by WITT into the commercial sector, where the polytechnic has engaged with major businesses in the province to provide training, and also the work to draw students to WITT as a platform for work or higher education.

Snook is also mindful of the value of the Māori economy.

“It is everywhere and Māori want to see their own people being brought up to speed to be part of their workforce. It is an area where WITT can provide valuable training.”

Brockie said the role attracted more than 30 applications and the quality was beyond his expectations.

“I was genuinely surprised by the interest in the WITT role, given the fact that there is an expectation of significant change,” he said. “The board is delighted to have John on board to lead us through whatever changes are required.”


Pictured: John Snook on WITT campus today