Learning support advisors

Use the interactive map to find your nearest learning support advisor



Matt Powell

Learning support advisor

North Auckland and Central Auckland

Mobile027 413 0100 Email

Matt has been working in the health, fitness and community recreation industries for over 10 years in a wide variety of roles including personal training, group fitness and professional development.

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His passion for helping others sees him still teaching Les Mills Group Fitness classes on a weekly basis. Born and bred in the mighty West Auckland and a graduate of Kelston Boys High School, a passion for sport comes with the territory. 

During his downtime Matt can be found in the gym, coaching and personal training, as well as instructing a variety of group fitness classes. On weekends you will find him glued to the TV watching the NRL and supporting his beloved New Zealand Warriors.

Before moving to Skills Active, Matt managed a number of gym facilities as well as being Business Development Manager for Health & Fitness at CLM. Matt was also a Skills Active exercise assessor for over two years before joining the team. 

Nick Parke Web

Nick Parke

Learning support advisor

East Auckland

Mobile021 360 487 Email

Nick joined Skills Active in 2021 as a learning support advisor. Academically, Nick completed his undergraduate degree in sport and recreation through AUT in 2013. Following his graduation he spent 12 months living in Queenstown where he secured his first opportunity working voluntarily in the high performance sector, as a strength and conditioning coach.

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Upon returning to Auckland Nick elected to further his studies, completing a Post Graduate Diploma in Sport Science and Strength and Conditioning at AUT. While studying he found work at a private training establishment and spent six years as a tutor and curriculum developer. Alongside his work in education, Nick continued to work voluntarily as an assistant sport scientist, and a strength conditioning coach with local football clubs, and briefly, at NZ Football.

When Nick isn’t working or spending time with his family and friends, he can be found reading, drawing, listening to music, playing PlayStation, or absorbing all the football he can. He considers himself a student of the game of Football, and American Football. He follows the fortunes (or misfortunes) of Arsenal FC, and the Miami Dolphins.

Denny Laird web

Denny Laird

Learning support advisor

West Auckland, Northland

Mobile021 563 035 Email

Denny joined Skills Active in 2022. She has previously worked at the New Zealand School of Tourism and has over 20 years’ experience in hospitality and tourism. She is a people person who loves to travel and being outdoors.

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When she’s not at work, Denny can be found with her running shoes on or at CrossFit, and she loves spending time playing games with her partner and friends. She might be slightly competitive.

Denny loves the snow and spent four winters in the Pyrenees in Andorra, before heading to Queenstown where she spent eight years enjoying both the summers and winters.

Phil Seed web

Philip Seed

Learning support advisor

Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Waikato and Waipa

Mobile027 2389144 Email

Kia ora, nō Tauranga Moana ahau, ko Philip Seed toku ingoa, no reira, tēnā koutou katoa.

Philip is a born and raised “Mountie”. He spent many years fishing, doing bombs at the wharf, jumping off rocks and going to the beach.

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He completed a Bachelor of Sport and Recreation, then a few years later did the Secondary School teaching post grad, and had a small stint teaching, then back to the outdoors.

Phil has spent over 10 years working in outdoor instruction, training, team leading and some assessing. He recently spent a couple of years with Sport Bay of Plenty. He has also spent many years volunteering in churches, doing youth work, and helping educate and train people.

In his downtime you will find him at church, the gym, walks, movies, ten pin bowling, playing pool, eating kai, and with his whānau. In more recent years he has been exploring his own backyard and appreciating all that Aotearoa has to offer. Phil also describes himself as a bit of a funny ‘fulla’ and enjoys a good laugh!


Carolyn Verhagen

Northern LSA team leader and industry engagement advisor - outdoor recreation

Central North Island and King Country

Mobile027 6738 460 Email

Carolyn joined Skills Active in August 2015. Her background is in outdoor education, and over the years she has been an enthusiastic caver, rock climber, tramper and kayaker. She enjoys sharing her love of the outdoors with others.

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Carolyn has a love of teaching and an enthusiasm for learning new skills. She lives in the beautiful Central North Island with her family, including her lovely dog. In her spare time you can find her at the gym, in the kitchen, out walking the river tracks or kayaking on the river... or reading!

Ryan web

Ryan Stark

Learning support advisor

Wairarapa, Gisborne, East Cape and Hawke's Bay

Mobile027 687 9552 Email

Ryan joined Skills Active in August 2021. He previously worked in the aquatics industry for seven years, having started out as a learn to swim instructor, which then led to becoming a lifeguard and then a lifeguard assessor - which then steered him in the direction of his current role as a learning support advisor.

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Ryan is passionate about helping people to obtain qualifications post-school, and he himself has obtained qualifications in the aquatics, horticulture, viticulture, and health and safety sectors.

His best times are spent with his 10 year old son, and he enjoys anything to do with water, including fishing, boating, kayaking, surfing, swimming and diving. Motorcycle riding is also up there. He is looking forward to supporting trainees on their learning journeys.


Angie Gooch

Learning support advisor

Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki

Phone(04) 916 4373 Mobile021 532 835 Email

Angie joined Skills Active in September 2016. She comes from an event management and instructional background in the outdoors and community recreation industries.

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Angie loves the interpersonal side of her work, and has had the privilege of meeting and working with many amazing people through her various roles in local and regional authorities, private enterprise, corporate and community facilitation and development.

Angie is a furniture maker, Brazilian drum maker, house renovator/handy-person and general #8 kiwi engineer, who wishes there were more hours in the day to create awesome stuff, including some pretty funky steampunk walking canes.

 She can often be found drumming with the infamous Wellington Batucada. Otherwise Angie loves hanging with her family.

Angela Robinson Web

Angela Robinson

Learning support advisor

Wellington and Kapiti Coast

Mobile021 566 853 Email

Angela joined Skills Active in May 2019. Angela has been in gym membership sales and retention roles for nearly 10 years, and has worked as a group fitness instructor for over 15 years. She has also worked in employment support roles, supporting people coming out of prison, and spent five years in the recruitment industry.

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Angela’s passion is supporting people to reach their goals whether that be in fitness or employment, and she is a strong believer in education and ongoing learning as a pathway to success. She has studied continuously as an adult in psychology and mental health, and loves to learn!

Angela is still a passionate group fitness instructor for Les Mills in Wellington and loves to keep fit while helping others. She loves being active with her kids on the weekends, watching her beloved Phoenix Football team, and is a keen traveller.


Denise Clarke

Learning support advisor

Nelson, Marlborough, Christchurch, North Canterbury and West Coast

Mobile021 402 293 Email

Denise joined Skillls Active in July 2016 and is based in Nelson. Denise has experience working in the sport, recreation and fitness sectors, delivering and assessing unit standards.

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She is actively working in the fitness industry as a group fitness instructor and is passionate about helping people reach their full potential. 

In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, exercising at the gym, volunteering in the community and cooking.  

Amanda web

Amanda Gilmore

Learning support advisor

North Canterbury, Canterbury and South Canterbury

Phone0508 4 SKILLS Mobile0212724548 Email

Amanda has been a part of the aquatics industry for almost a decade. Starting out as a part-time lifeguard she quickly made her way through the organisation and has more recently been part of two successful leadership teams at aquatic facilities in North and South Canterbury. Amanda has been a Skills Active registered assessor for four years.

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She has a passion for giving people the opportunity to be the best version of themselves, and providing support to ensure they achieve their goals. In her spare time she enjoys a good game of rugby and spends time with family and friends. Her 8-month old springer spaniel also keeps her on her toes!


Emily Cooper

Training advisor - apprentices


Mobile027 223 9268 Email

Born and raised in Christchurch, Emily grew up in the recreation and sport industry in a wide range of sports, from swimming to competitive diving. At age 16, she started working part-time as a lifeguard and has held various roles in the recreation and sport industry ever since - including a stint at Disney World in Florida.

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She has a Bachelor of Health Science and is passionate about education and helping people achieve their goals.

In her spare time Emily loves to hang out with family and friends, kayak, travel and explore this beautiful country on tramping adventures. 


Steve Richens

Southern LSA team leader and industry engagement advisor - snowsport

Queenstown Lakes, Central Otago and Fiordland

Mobile027 24 81 565 Email

Steve joined the Skills Active team in July 2013. Born and raised near Stonehenge, England, and with a BA Combined Honours in Sports Science and History, Steve has enjoyed an extensive customer service career in leisure and tourism both in Europe and North America. He now specialises in the thriving NZ snow industry!

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Steve and his wife Sadie moved to New Zealand in 2004 and are settled in Arrowtown with their boys Seth and Arlo. He is a proud volunteer firefighter and also helps to coach and promote youth sport in the region.

Go Highlanders!


Emma Ramsay Brown

Learning support advisor

Coastal Otago and Southland

Mobile027 640 0185 Email

Emma has spent the last 18 years in Dunedin, running an outdoor education and eco tourism company with her husband.

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Their company has trained many staff through Skills Active (herself included), so Emma jumped at the opportunity to come on board as a Skills Active team member to help other companies take advantage of the great training opportunities Skills Active can offer them.

Although her business has meant she spends a lot of time outdoors with clients, she and her husband and daughter still spend as much free time as possible camping, rafting, and hanging out in the outdoors. But she also admits that sometimes sitting by a lake reading all day works for her too.

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