Who We Are – The Stewardship Group

Shirley Johnson, Director – Youth Employability, COMET Auckland (Convenor)

Shirley developed and leads the COMET Auckland Youth Employability initiative and works closely with employers, industry leaders, government agencies, educators, and youth service organisations around the country.  She is also the lead trainer for YEP providers around the country. Shirley co-led the development of the national Youth Employability Framework.  She is a passionate advocate for youth development, social justice, educational equity and economic inclusion.

Shirley’s motivation is to take the convening role of YEA is based on her belief that we are not going to solve the youth employability crisis without the help of every player in the skills ecosystem across Aotearoa. Shirley believes that collaborative leadership is needed to create a system that enables every young person to access what they need to successfully contribute to their communities and thrive in work and life.

Mary Jensen, Chief Executive, Smart Waikato Trust

Mary has a background in regional development, business, education and communications. She has been the Chief Executive of Smart Waikato Trust since its inception in 2009, empowering young people and employers through real education and employment pathways. Under her leadership, the Trust has grown to successfully launch and implement a number of new initiatives designed to benefit young people including endorseMe® the smartphone employability record; FutureForce® Action Network; Smart Transitions; YESPLS Pūkenga Whakatupu ora;  and the award-winning Secondary School Employer Partnerships, alongside eight annual editions of FutureForce® careers resource and managing the Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme across the region.

Mary’s motivation to become a part of YEA is that she firmly believes that employment is a major determinant of wellbeing, particularly for young people. While youth organisations across Aotearoa are working in earnest, the youth sector is fragmented. Mary believes that YEA has the capacity to provide the vehicle to pull together the youth sector nationwide to achieve greater impact for rangatahi.

Barbara MacLennan Manager Workforce Development, ToiEDA

Barbara has management experience in local and central government, community organisations and the private sector. She specialises in cross-sector collaboration to achieve results around community-led aspirations and plans at local and regional levels. She’s been actively involved in the Ōpōtiki Harbour Development project for over a decade and helped catalyse Eastern Bay’s focus on workforce as a key enabler of inclusive growth and development. 

Barbara leads Toi EDA’s Workforce Development Programme. This supports locally led and regional cross-sector innovation to address barriers to workforce participation and create new pathways into good Eastern Bay jobs and careers.

Barbara’s interest in being a member of the YEA stewardship group is based on her commitment to  cross-sector collaborative practice that drives system level change.

Warwick Foy – Leader of Learning Pathways, SHGC, New Plymouth, President of CATE NZ

Warwick Foy has been a teacher for the majority of his career, teaching social sciences at Spotswood College, Inglewood High School and some work overseas. Over time, he began to transition his career into assisting young people into training and work, and was the General Manager of Taranaki Futures Trust Inc from 2016 to 2019. Warwick places equal value and recognition on all types of employment and believe there is honour in all work, believing our society operates on the interdependence of all who contribute in our community.

Warwick’s motivation to be part of the YEA stewardship group is in the hope that we can develop a simple collective of careers and employability strategy with nationwide impact that supports the goal of multiple and equitable pathways for all learners.

Mayor Max Baxter, Chair of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs and Mayor of Ōtorohanga District Council

Max was first elected as Mayor of Ōtorohanga District Council in 2013 and was appointed as Chair of MTFJ in 2017.  Max is passionate about ensuring that all young people have the opportunity to find meaningful employment and has a particular interest in supporting mayors across the country to prioritise youth employability in their districts/cities.

As chair of MTFJ and a member of YEA, Max believes that a coordinated approach to youth employability is needed.

Noa Woolloff, Taskforce Coordinator at the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs

Noa is passionate about removing the barriers that young people face when entering the labour market and has a background in working with young people in rural and provincial communities across New Zealand.  Noa works with the Mayors of New Zealand to support the vision of MTFJ to see all young people under the age of 25 engaged in appropriate education, employment or training. 

Noa sees value in YEA to bring together the key stakeholders within the youth employability ecosystem to advocate and work as a collective.  

Jane Zintl, Chief Executive Officer, Ara Taiohi

Jane is a youth worker, lawyer and strengths coach who is a bookworm, faith-based and passionate about youth development. She has a LLB, a BA in Psychology and a Diploma in Youth Work.

The kaupapa that drives her mahi with young people is a belief that when we are confident in our own identity, we are able to truly celebrate the success of others. The voice of young people brings integrity, passion and justice to our nation.

Ara Taiohi is committed to the work of YEA because it aligns with their vision – Te Puawaitanga Taiohi o Aotearoa, seeing young people in Aotearoa thriving. Many of their members support young people towards employment, addressing the systemic barriers and inequities that exist for youth employability is essential.

Simon Mareko, Senior Strategic Lead, Ara Taiohi

Simon is a passionate advocate for youth development, youth work and the youth sector.

His introduction into the youth sector came from a couple of incredible individuals who had put their trust and faith in him to unleash his potential and be his best self. This has influenced him to instill trust and belief in rangatahi to be their best selves.

Simon’s motivation to be on the stewardship group of YEA is based on his hope that the collective could act as a disruptor of status quo to support rangatahi and to revolutionary indigenise spaces.

Dr Rajshree Krishnan, Senior Data Analyst, COMET Auckland

Raj has worked with COMET Auckland – Te Hononga Akoranga since 2014, providing data support for various projects and leading the production of the annual data snapshots.  She believes that data should be presented in a manner that can be understood by everyone, allowing access to data driven evidence when it comes to decision making.

The combination of youth needing all the advocates they can get and advocacy initiatives needing to be data driven was Raj’s motivation to be a member of YEA. 

Rachel Hawthorne – Programme Lead, Prince’s Trust New Zealand

Rachel brings over 20 years of experience as an educator in a number of teaching, pastoral and leadership positions to her role with The Prince’s Trust New Zealand. She is involved in design, development, delivery and evaluation across the organisation’s multiple programmes on offer. She brings a strengths-based philosophy to her work in providing experiential learning opportunities that build capability in all young people to positively contribute in their communities.

 The Prince’s Trust is more than delighted to be a part of the shared vision of the YEA as it aligns with their aspiration to activate young New Zealanders as designers, creators and workers in a future economy that is sustainable, equitable and prosperous.

Whetū Campbell, Kaitakawaenga Maori, Wellington Community Trust

Whetu whakapapas to Ngati Porou and Ngapuhi. He is a husband and father who brings to the YEA team his 22 years’ experience working in the youth and community sectors. This includes senior management, providing cultural advice and support, project management, leading development programmes, facilitation and supervision. Whetū is passionate about Te Reo Māori and tikanga Māori, and assisting people to develop and reach their full potential

Whetū’s interest in being a stewardship group member is driven by a desire to have strong thriving communities.

Rachel Simpson, Manager for Education, Skills and Immigration, BusinessNZ

Rachel works on issues relating to labour market demand for skilled workers.

Prior to joining BusinessNZ, Rachel has held a variety of senior management and advisory roles in government education agencies, Parliament and the education sector, working in New Zealand and overseas in the areas of industry training, tertiary education policy and investment, international education and education systems and strategy.

Rachel’s interest in YEA aligns with her view that initiatives that get sectors in the skills ecosystem working together more strategically and collaboratively are important to support.

Catherine Stephens, Manager of Career Development and Employment Services, University of Auckland

Catherine is the Manager of Career Development and Employment Services (CDES) at the University of Auckland New Zealand. She has a Masters in Career Development and over 25 years’ experience working in the field to support successful student transitions into work, study and life.  In the past seven years, Catherine has implemented a range of initiatives that have transformed the way in which CDES operates across the University. The University of Auckland has since this time received three NZAGE Awards for the “Best University Careers Service in New Zealand”.

Prior to working at the University of Auckland, Catherine was the Project Executive for Careers New Zealand, leading the writing and implementation of the Career Education Benchmarks for New Zealand secondary schools. She has also worked extensively in NZ secondary schools. Catherine has travelled to a wide range of overseas universities and has a strong understanding of the opportunities available and challenges to young people. Catherine has been the Chair of the Auckland Branch of the professional association CDANZ and has received two university awards recognising the contribution she has made to the University.

Seumas Fantham, Executive Director of Todd Foundation (Principal funding body of YEA)

Seumas has over 20 years’ experience working with young people and community. He holds a degree in Education and Sociology, is a trustee on the Philanthropy NZ board, has been on the Māori Advisory Committee for Philanthropy NZ (8 years), and is also a trustee on a Family Foundation, Te Muka Rau.

The motivation for the Todd Foundation to be a member of the YEA collective is that we have supported a wide range of regional community-led youth employment initiatives in NZ, and we believe there is a need for a national collective space that can potentially  “Influence systems thinking, role model new ways of working.  We think it is important to provide a platform to share models that are working well and to increase adequate resource towards YE initiatives that have demonstrated impact.”

Helen Anderson, Programme and Relationship lead, Todd Foundation (Principal funding body of YEA)

Helen has a wealth of experience through previous roles with the Vodafone NZ Foundation, JR McKenzie Trust and as co-founder of community organisation Film for Change Aotearoa. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Criminology, Psychology and Film) and a background working in the not-for-profit sector.

Helen is a member of YEA because she believes in working together to achieve greater impact.