The Government's much-lauded introduction of free tuition has so far failed to boost the numbers of potential recruits for the tourism industry here - despite the Eastern Institute of Technology's proven ability to find graduates work.
EIT's school of tourism and hospitality is this year running courses in the New Zealand Certificate in Tourism across levels - up to Level 5 - but there are just 25 students enrolled for Level 3 and 10 enrolled for the year-long Level 5 diploma. Numbers that were classed as "average" and "low", respectively.
"I don't think this 'year's free' education has really impacted here. It doesn't seem to have made a huge difference to us anyway", EIT travel and tourism tutor Karen Banks said.
Miss Banks also said with the region's tourism events mainly based around summer, it meant there was more work to do to ensure graduates could be confident of finding year-round work locally.
Programme co-ordinator Nikki Lloyd said EIT had a "very high strike rate" in ensuring graduates found employment at the Level 5 Diploma Level.
"They do very well but they have to do work experience, so that often leads to paid work.
"We work quite closely with Hawke's Bay Tourism, so we get them into the classroom as guest speakers so our students have a pretty good idea of what goes on. They also take a student on work experience."
Mrs Lloyd said that was in addition to the help the tourism and hospitality department gave to the tourism organisation in providing extra staff at events like the Tremains Art Deco Festival and The Big Easy.
"Our students have to be involved in at least two events, that's part of the programme, so Hawke's Bay Tourism give us the opportunity to do that - along with other organisations."
Staff also attended Hawke's Bay Tourism's quarterly progress update.
Mrs Lloyd said this year's courses were a lot more business-orientated than in previous years.
"That came from an industry meeting we had, where we asked people what do they want. We met with the local industry and that was their feedback."
Miss Banks added this year there was also an internationally-recognised City and Guilds qualification available to students, which at present had a 90 per cent pass rate.
Former graduate Hannah Cox completed her study in 2016 when the Art Deco Trust created a new job specifically for her.
"You have to do 60 hours of volunteering on the course, so I did it with the events team at the Art Deco Trust. Then there was a job going so I put my name forward. I'm now the tours assistant but it's a new job they created just for me."
Miss Cox now handles general enquiries for shop sales on all the trust's walks and tours, along with festival ticketing and administration work too.
She now plans to gain further high level qualifications in the industry to progress her career.
"I'm starting my bachelor of business this month, majoring in marketing because I to do more general management-type stuff within the tourism industry."