Fierce labour market competition is prompting female job seekers to revisit finishing school values of polish and presentation.
Former model Rachel Parsons launched Chic Consultancy last year to train young women in deportment, the art of conversation, job interview skills, text and email etiquette - and her programme is in hot demand.
"I never realised when I started Chic how invaluable the services it provides are in the current economic climate," says Parsons. "I have even been asked if men can attend the course."
Based in Kerikeri, Parsons held workshops for girls aged 13 to 18, but now works with the Ministry of Social Development and Far North Youth Transition Services as well.
They use her programme to boost the confidence of women aged 16 to 64 who've found themselves beneficiaries after redundancy or unemployment or who are from a low socio-economic background.
Parsons advocates a return to core values where "ladies are ladies and gentlemen are gentlemen".
Parsons estimates that fewer than half of young people know how to behave in a restaurant.
She says the dearth of societal value presently placed on those values is evident in the work environment as well. Lessons in self-esteem and good manners give women an edge in getting employment and promotions, she says.
"If you're confident about the way you are, where you're going in life and that you're able to handle any situation, then you can have your shoulders back and hold your head up - and that makes a big difference."
Chic can cater for individual and group workshops for out-of-town attendees, which can include accommodation.
Parsons' long-term goal is to take her programme nationwide.
The business employs two other consultants to give the workshop attendees haircuts and teach them proper makeup application for the daytime and evening.
Sponsors such as Elizabeth Arden and Herbal Essences supply product for the workshops, and participants are given a gift bag from suppliers to help prepare them for the job market and personal independence.
As for extending training to males, Parsons says it's in the pipeline - but she's still looking for a suitable male role model to deliver it.
Sixteen-year-old Caitlin Gawn, from Kerikeri, did Chic consultancy's deportment workshop at the end of last year to broaden her life skills, she says, and help in her career ambition of becoming a chef.
Gawn is job-hunting at present but says the workshop boosted her confidence and helped her answer interview questions.
"I definitely recommend it to others," she says.
While the value of learning job interview skills is obvious, Gawn also rates being taught to apply makeup to best effect as a programme highlight.By Andrea Milner