For the seven students on a 10-month Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) carpentry course in Dannevirke, it's all about building their own futures.
The course, the second to be run by EIT in conjunction with Tararua Community Youth Services (TYCS), will see the students graduate in five weeks, but for Dannevirke's Michael Pocock his journey has been longer and more traumatic than most.
However, along the way he's taken out a merit in foundation assessment, which is extremely rare, course tutor Campbell (CJ) Johnson said.
"He turned in an assignment which was second to none," CJ told the Dannevirke News.
Michael began his building career in Eketahuna 11 years ago, but on the day he signed up for his apprenticeship his life changed forever.
After enrolling for the apprenticeship course in Masterton, Michael arrived home to find someone carrying a television out of his Stanley St house in Eketahuna. Unfortunately, for the then 18-year-old, four people were robbing his house and he was the victim of a vicious assault with a softball bat and had his foot "hacked at" with a machete.
Eketahuna Constable Donna Oliver turned up to discover "Michael lying in a pool of blood".
"I hadn't even made it to my first building apprenticeship block course and it was all quite traumatic," Michael said.
After spending time recuperating, he made the move to Dannevirke, wanting to carve out a better life for himself.
"I hadn't had a good upbringing and never even went to high school," he said. "But as soon as I arrived in Dannevirke I went and studied with Lorraine Wallace at Trade and Commerce and in four months I'd completed Level 1, 2 and 3, which would have taken me years at high school."
Michael has worked at Silver Fern Farms at Takapau and at Dannevirke's Native Woodcraft, but he still wanted a career in building.
"Now's the right time. I have a fiancee and two kids and need a career rather than a job. This course is ideal. I might have a bit more hands-on experience, but I'm not top in written tests, though I reckon I haven't done too bad for myself."
Despite his traumatic life experience, Michael said going for your goal is all about trying.
Tutor CJ agreed and said everyone on the course has passed their exams and assessments with flying colours.
"No one is lagging," he said.
Dave McDougall, EITs assistant head of school trade, said an apprenticeship can be a pathway to owning your own business and being successful.
"Students do need numeracy and literacy skills, but we give them support and TCYS helps students obtain their driver licences, something which is really important in rural communities. For a long time trades have been seen as a lesser option, but they're not."
EIT is also setting up Level 3 carpentry courses in Waipukurau and has run four in Taradale and one each in Gisborne and Ruatoria, with Level 2 courses in Tolaga Bay and Wairoa.
"It's just a matter of getting a good tutor and students end up with a nationally recognised qualification," he said.
Maieesha Chadwick from Hastings is looking forward to a career in joinery when the course finishes.
"I like the small detail stuff," she said.
Helping the students through the course is Steve Tipu, pastoral care and transitions facilitator for EITs school of trades and technology.
"The trades are a great career option," he said. "The Government sees a future for these formerly unskilled workers and is supporting them. Many in the industry are retiring soon so we need more."
However, he said it was a huge step for young people to take on training.
"Some have dropped out of school early and there are a couple on this course who left school at 14. This programme and funding serves a purpose, capturing those who need it and we're lucky to have a tutor like CJ who has a passion for young people.
"Sometimes provincial New Zealand misses out, but I'm noticing a trend of people moving from the cities to small rural areas and with that comes new innovations and business development."
Time to enrol:
* Another EIT Level 2 foundation course in building and carpentry will begin in Dannevirke on August 9. Enrolments are being taken at Tararua Community Youth Services in Allardice St.
* The seven students are now looking for employment. If you can offer them work contact Jeanne O'Brien at TCYS on 06 374-9214.