Shirely Johnson, YEA Convenor, Aug 2019 – Oct 2023

This is an enormous thank you to everyone who contributed to make the Good Youth Employment Symposium such a fantastic and valuable two days. At a time when everyone feels stretched, pulled and a bit depleted our speakers offered some new and at times intriguing perspectives. I loved how our speakers mixed it up, they inspired, encouraged, acknowledged the great work that is happening across our sector and gently lay down challenges about what’s needed to keep moving forward.

One of my good friends and one of our presenters gave me this feedback, “thanks for helping us realise we were doing good things in our own community. It’s too easy to think you aren’t doing enough, but creating these times, to stand back and reflect on things you are doing is important. We also had people thank us for helping them realise they were good things as well”. Its hard to beat this type of golden feedback.

So enormous thanks to our speakers, every one of them gifting their precious time and expertise: Prof Jarrod Haar, PhD, FRSNZ, CFHRNZ; Tanya Pouwhare;Patrick McKibbin;Abe Gorrie-Naus; Baruk Jacob; Charlotte Mitchell; Lloyd Martin; Kauri Tearaura; Dan Russell;Gemma Turney; Shannon Seiuli; Joel Bradley; Hilary Karaitiana; Jerome Tairi; Jessica Te Moananui; Joe Wilson; Michelle Lye; Jono Craig; Michael Stevens; Joseph Tyro; Krishan Kumar; Louise Cowpertwait (Dr); Sam Jackman; Tammie Metcalfe; Tony Henderson-Newport; Jami Dickson; Albany Lockie, Fati Tagoai, Gala Baumfield, Sala Henry Samia, Joe Dobb, Janie Little, Kath Harrison, and Shane Murdoch.

Thank you to our politicians who made time in their busy schedules to come speak to us, and take questions which were not always easy to answer. Courage and authenticity are important to me, so fronting up to a room of people who would like to see some things change is great. Thanks to Chris Hipkins; Chris Bishop; Jan Logie, Karen Chhour; Benjamin Wylie-van Eerd; Takuta Ferris.

Thanks also to our amazing MCs who kept the day’s rolling, Jedidiah Elemani; Jerome Tairi, our stewardship group and Chair Rachel Hawthorne, to Emma Anderson for making this dream of mine turn into reality and her husband, Jay for his extraordinary gifting of time and expertise to ensure all our IT worked so well.

Many thanks to our funders, Seumas Fantham Todd Foundation and Robyn Scott JR Mckenzie Trust.

And finally, thanks to everyone who came and listened, and shared and networked. The role of an audience is too often underestimated. For me it is glue and the magic of any conference. Many thanks.

Presentation Powerpoints

Attendee Feedback

Great work is being undertaken and, in many cases, through a collaborative approach. Organisations going above and beyond to ensure quality work and outcomes. New thinking and new working.

The variances between different generations and considerations to make all generations feel valued in the workplace with the particular focus on youth entering/transitioning to work. The authenticity and passion was rather special.

A reality check from the Rangatahi panel whose kōrero challenged me to open my eyes and mind wider when viewing our world from their positions. Tautoko the kōrero “rangatahi join people not programs”. The need to redesign our education system!


Community led solutions make the biggest difference, we should be focused on local application of holistic employment support principles.

The learnings of information and empathy of different perspectives. Helps to validate what our service does well already, but also how we can improve and add to our current strategy going forward to do better for the Rangatahi we serve.

Maybe having an information point so organisations can leave cards/flyers, web details, etc so those people that don’t connect can pick up further details. Or something on the website pre-event about attendee organisations.

A lot of the workshops were focused on businesses employing young people, would be good to have more workshops from organizations about how they are helping/assisting young people.

I felt the youth panel could have been more diverse to get a more accurate cross section of the views and experiences of rangatahi. One of the ways this could be done is through reaching out to different people/organisations planning to attend or present the symposium to put forward a young person that they work with.


Interactive workshops. Speakers focusing on what tools or approaches for working with rangatahi instead of validating information we already know about or are already doing.

It was a real shame to that people didn’t prioritise the networking event – if that is a trend, maybe next time some other opportunities could be included. With so many travellers – 4pm is too late of a finish and a mid week event might have allowed people to stay.

Speaker Feedback

Tanya Pouwhare

Thank you so much for the opportunity to be involved in your amazing mahi Shirley, to share some of my knowledge and thoughts on embedding Human Rights into employment practices. I was blown away with the number of questions, engagement and connection from the attendees, around creating supportive workspaces. A TON of work will need to be done in NZ over the next decade if we are to catch up to the rest of the world in this space – but we are a resourceful bunch, and when there is positive impact, we tend to embrace quickly and learn as we go. My heart is filled up with hope – thank you.

Shannon Seiuli

Thank you again Shirley and Emma for making this happen and giving us the opportunity. Loved being around everyone in the Youth Employment space, sharing our highs and lows with lots of laughs in between! Always inspiring being surrounded by other people who are passionate as we are.

Jessica Te Moananui

Taylor-Rose Lealaisalanoa and I had the opportunity to represent Talent RISE yesterday at the Youth Employability Aotearoa (YEA) symposium, it was a wonderful experience to share with both Taylor and Katerina Hobson our RISE kaitiaki team. We were very blessed to be able to share our own personal stories around how passionate we are sending the elevator back down, elevating and uplifting the mana of our rangatahi. Creating opportunities for those who have experience barriers to securing employment alongside an abundance of other rangatira from the industry. Mihi to the rangatira who we spent the last 2 days with.

Joe Wilson

Just wanted to say an absolutely massive thank you and congratulations for a brilliant event and for having Michelle, Jami, Zeta and myself welcome to share our mahi. We got some great feedback and made some awesome connections so we will keep moving forward in this space and stay in touch on the developments!