An initiative aimed at equipping all high school students with the tools and support to gain their full driver's licence before they leave school was officially launched at CHB College on Monday.
A collaboration between the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, Massey University and Connecting for Youth Employment (CYE) - Central Hawke's Bay the pilot, called Steering Aoteora, is a national first that is being closely followed by the Government.
CYE director Kelly Annand is a key instigator of the project, which she said had been five years in the making.
"This pilot programme will provide the evidence, and support our overall aim that no student will leave high school without the ability to drive themselves to employment.
"This is critical for the sustainability of local communities, and the national economy."
Associate Transport Minister and Tukituki MP Craig Foss was at the launch and said a lack of a driver's licence was a barrier to employment and that there were many programmes around the country attempting to address the issue.
"We will be watching this programme and how it long it takes and how it plays out - so do your best," he said to those gathered who included the students taking part as well as representatives from the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, Local Government New Zealand, the police, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council and the CHB District Council.
Twenty students, aged at least 16-years-old, were enrolled in the programme that officially started just before the end of the first term.
Mrs Annand said none of them had a licence when they started but 17 of those taking part had already achieved their learner's licence.
Most of the training was fitted around their studies at lunchtimes, and at home.
In signing up to the programme, the students' parents agreed to help mentor and support them but mentors would be provided if none were available, Mrs Annand said.
The students could also pick up NCEA credits throughout the process.
"The goal is that they have their restricted licence by the end of this year.
"They will be taken on an advanced defensive driving course next school holidays, which will knock six months off the restricted period so hopefully they will leave school next year with their full licence," she said.
The free programme is being funded by Local Government New Zealand.