This month, the formidable Sam Bullen has been with One Tree for 18 years. We love seeing our people grow their careers (and themselves). Sam is an amazing example of what’s possible in the early years sector and at our organisation. Here’s to 18 years Sam, and we hope there will be 18 more.
While working at One Tree, Sam has experienced organisational changes, challenges, and many career highlights. Today, she’s the manager of the One Tree Registered Training Organisation (RTO) training the next generation of educators.
Where it all began
Sam didn’t start her career as a trainer or manager. She began her journey in Karratha. Sam says, “I moved to Karratha when I was 22 after I’d been working with children for six years. I enrolled in my diploma which I never thought I was going to do. I was able to complete it in two years. While I studied, I worked at the local rec club behind the bar and got my diploma. Then, I started at One Tree Millar’s Well as a qualified educator on the floor. After two years I got promoted to director and learnt how to do the wages, childcare benefit, and all the accounts”.
After she became a director, Sam had a baby and took a six-month break and returned as a working mum. Her career didn’t slow down, instead it took off.
” After I had my first child, I did a bit of casual work, then I became the director at One Tree Bulgarra for 18 months. I then moved into operations and was overseeing four services. Then, we opened Len Taplin, Wickham, Pannawonica and Onslow. It snowballed from there”, says Sam.
Saving services with the community
Sam worked side-by-side with the One Tree CEO and Pilbara community to save all the of the One Tree Karratha services. This was when the One Tree Spirit was born: Working together, meeting the challenge, determined to lead.
Sam said, “We’d just upgraded Millar’s Well and Bulgarra to be advised these services were going to be put out to tender. So, we rallied the community and had the decision overturned. We wrote letters, we met with people, we got the community involved. Since then, One Tree has just grown and grown and grown.”
One Tree then set its sights on new horizons. Because of her ability to learn fast and succeed in new roles – Sam was one of the people chosen to help the organisation get there.
Becoming a Registered Training Organisation
Sam says, “In around 2010, Karri our CEO wanted to become an RTO. I got my cert IV in Training and Assessing and we started offering the Certificate III. In 2013, our Executive Director Coral Callan called me and asked if I wanted to take over the RTO. It was a big challenge. There were lots of hurdles and I was learning as I went, I self-taught and no one really knew the training world. It was just like, okay…let’s do this. It was the best move I ever made; I absolutely love it”.
During this time, Sam also helped to pioneer high school traineeships for Cert lll in Australia. She says, “I was fortunate to get a job in an education and care service when I was 16, so I wanted to get training into high schools. It took me two years. First, we had to get Cert III on the traineeship list for high schools. At that time, it wasn’t available anywhere in Australia. I had to keep persevering and meeting with the state training board. There was a lot of hesitation, but we finally got it approved and we started running the program in Karratha and Port Hedland. It’s been running since around 2013”.
“High school-based traineeships are a great career path for students, many do their diploma afterwards and still work for One Tree. Our traineeships are about giving people quality training. We don’t fast track people in three months because that’s not quality training. We do lots of face to face and we do lots of sessions with our students, even our students in remote areas. We train to people’s abilities and their needs“.
Sam’s still looking forward to what’s next for her career and One Tree. “We have expanded the RTO into the Northern Territory and we’re looking at also offering a Certificate III in Communities. We want to get into the community and offer training on Country, where people are for Aboriginal people. It’s not about being a big business, it’s about helping people”
So, what keeps Sam coming back day after day? “I love my job. I’m an advocate for children and I’m passionate about it. I love my managers; I love my team. It’s all about our people. Plus, as a mum of three, the flexibility has always been amazing. One Tree has always been very good to me”.