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Neil Barns, Owner and Director of Neil Barns Consulting Ltd and Chair of OPAIC Board 

Dr Neil Barns has extensive experience in the tertiary education sector, recently as Interim Chief Executive of Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and as the Chief Executive of CPIT.


Sam Alavi, Group Chief Executive – OPAIC and Future Skills Academy 

Sam Alavi has over 25 years’ experience working in the private education sector in New Zealand and predominantly in South Auckland, working with second-chance learners in a foundation education setting. Sam established Future Skills in 2000 in Manukau, to provide better opportunities for youth in South Auckland to access education and employment.  Over the years he has grown and diversified Future Skills education activities to include tertiary level programmes for Levels 3 and above, and formed an alliance and partnership with Otago Polytechnic to set up the Otago Polytechnic Auckland International Campus catering to students studying at graduate, post-graduate and master's levels. He has a governance role for the delivery of building surveying to Building Control Authorities for regional councils, with BOINZ, Skill Org and Otago Polytechnic.


Phil Ker, Former Chief Executive -  Otago Polytechnic

Phil Ker took up his appointment as Chief Executive of Otago Polytechnic in 2004. He has had a diverse array of experience and has developed a broad portfolio of expertise as both an academic and an administrator in both university and polytechnic environments. His previous roles have included lecturing in business and tertiary teacher education, staff development and management of student services, human resources, and property functions. He is particularly interested in business education, education for sustainability, staff development generally and leadership development specifically, and in the recognition of prior experiential learning. 


Michelle Teirney – Chief Financial Officer, Te Pūkenga

Michelle is an accomplished financial and commercial leader with a broad background spanning both the public and commercial sectors. Previous to her appointment to Te Pūkenga’s leadership team, she held the role of Deputy Chief Executive Operations at Manukau Institute of Technology and Unitec from 2021. Michelle’s professional journey has encompassed diverse responsibilities, including overseeing Pfizer New Zealand's merger, acquisition, and divestment undertakings. She also played pivotal roles in restructuring finance departments, enhancing business outcomes, and establishing shared services, including stints as Group Accounting Manager for Auckland DHB and Group Accounting and Group Commercial Manager for Amcor New Zealand.

Michelle’s enthusiasm for continuous learning is evident through her educational achievements, including a Bachelor of Commerce, a Postgraduate Diploma in Business and Administration, and a Master of Management with Distinction.


Gus Gilmore – Deputy Chief Executive Ako Delivery, Te Pūkenga

Gus brings a wealth of experience as a seasoned director and senior executive. Formerly the Chief Executive of Manukau Institute of Technology and Unitec, Gus also held the position of Deputy Chief Executive Operations at the Tertiary Education Commission. His extensive career in aviation and tourism includes prominent leadership roles at the Star Alliance and Air New Zealand. Graduating with a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Auckland, Gus's expertise in tertiary education is complemented by his deep understanding of intricate regulatory landscapes and comprehensive operations knowledge.

He has worked internationally in several countries and is very comfortable in multi-cultural environments. He has led large teams and is passionate about good governance.