A need for more workers in the timber processing and building supplies industry has led to the creation of a life-changing programme, participants say.
Building Futures is a free eight-week pre-employment course, co-funded by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and Tumu.
Open to school leavers and job seekers aged between 17 to 26, it teaches life skills and on-site job training in the timber processing, building supplies and related industries with pastoral care.
Vaiana "Vee" MacGregor, 23, said it involved getting a taste of an industry that allowed her to use her brain and her hands and had the potential to be life-changing.
She had been working in administration in Australia but when Covid-19 hit, she moved back home to Flaxmere.
"I didn't know what I wanted to do and I wasn't getting anywhere.
"I thought about studying accounting, but the cost put me off.
"And I like to use my hands. My dad was very handy, so I was brought up to be able to do things."
The course allowed her to do both, and while not the first MSD course she had undertaken, it was by far the best and just what she needed.
Being treated with respect had been huge, she said.
"I've done other courses, but this is the first one where I felt the people running it actually gave a s**t and truly cared about us and our future.
"They check in with you, make sure you're still on track, and whether there's anything outside of the course that is making it hard."
For Kauri Rangiihu, also from Flaxmere, it was about finding employment in an industry he is already keen on.
With a background in concreting, the 24-year-old wants to expand his knowledge and experience and get to the stage where he can work as a contractor.
His advice to anyone with an interest in building-related industries is to give it a go.
"It's a good mix of fitness, team-building and job skills. It's a really good starting point if you want to work."
Both are set to graduate in a few weeks as part of the second cohort, once they have completed their work experience.
From there, they will be matched with an employer within one of the Tumu Group businesses or with an external company.
Tumu Timbers general manager James Truman said the initiative was driven by the need for more workers in the industry and a desire to help young people needing a start.
Tumu provides the required facilities, while MSD cover the course costs and Hastings District Council provide planning and communications support.
• Enrolments for upcoming courses are being taken now. More information is available online at buildingfutures.co.nz