Hundreds of trades scholarships offered last year to help in the Christchurch rebuild are starting to pay off as the first round of students graduate this week.
Up to 300 scholarships were offered to members of the Pacific community under the Pacific Trades Training initiative, launched in several polytechs around the country early last year.
Students receive $4000 towards their study in courses including electronics, carpentry, plastering, plumbing, pipe-laying, drain-laying and landscaping.
Among the first graduates is Manukau Institute of Technology student Sapoa Rimoni.
The 24-year-old from Mangere graduated on Tuesday with a certificate in carpentry. She is now studying towards a diploma in civil engineering.
"My dream goal is to be a construction manager one day. That's why I'm here and that's what I'm aiming for," she said.
"I like the practical work and that's what many Pacific people are known for - working the land, [and] working with their hands."
Ms Rimoni, who attended Avondale College, was the only woman in her graduating class.
She said she was hoping to use her skills towards helping various communities - whether it be in Christchurch or another part of the country.
"There is plenty of work out there and I'd just like to help people in some way, doing the work that I do."
The Pacific Trades Training scheme was part of the Government's $42 million Skills for Canterbury package announced in the 2011 Budget - $6 million of which went into the Pasifika trades scheme.
As part of this year's Budget, a further $43 million will go towards expansion of the programme, as well as the He Toki ki te Rika scheme, which aims to get more Maori working in trades.
In total, 3000 scholarships will be offered to Pacific and Maori polytech students nationwide in the next four years.
The Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Tariana Turia, said such programmes helped Maori and Pasifika to gain better qualifications.
That, in turn, meant better job and income prospects.
"The initiative responds to the urgent need to enhance skills for young Maori and Pasifika in order to best improve their participation in the labour market and in doing so, to strengthen employment outcomes for Maori and Pasifika communities," Mrs Turia said.
Polytech institutions involved are Whitireia NZ, the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Wellington Institute of Technology, Unitec and MIT.
Church ministers from various Pacific Island churches have also been working closely with institutions.