Maths, English, more than 70 secondary school students from Horowhenua can add a restricted driver licence to their curriculum vitae as they venture out into the world this week.

An innovative new programme run by Horowhenua Learning Centre- the first of its kind in New Zealand - had helped students from Manawatū, Waiopehu and Horowhenua Colleges gain a drivers licence.

HLC operations manager Barry Judd said the need for the pilot programme was identified by the feedback they were getting from potential employers and industry representatives.

Judd said there were many instances where a job for a school leaver was available, they were overlooked for want of drivers licence.


"We were consistently hearing how not having a licence was a barrier to finding employment and the message we were getting from employers was really clear," he said.

Not every student had the resources or access to a vehicle to help obtain their licence. The programme provided a brand new car, a white Suzuki Celerio, for students to sit their tests in and five free driving lessons, complete with driving instructor Natasha Beuck.

Judd said the Labour Government had made a pre-election promise to fund the course. When that money didn't materialise, he said the learning centre forged ahead and funded it themselves.

The Horowhenua Learning Centre was a community-owned trust and Judd said a surplus last year was used to fund the programme.

"The Government promised $50 million and stepped away from it. If we were waiting for the Government we would still be waiting," he said.

School leavers in the last month had already found jobs, he said.

Meanwhile, the three school principals in the region were hugely supportive of the initiative and all agreed the programme was suited to the rural nature of Horowhenua.

Manawatū College principal Bruce McIntyre said that meant the townships were spread out meaning a licence was essential.


"There are students that have been offered apprenticeships in Levin but have had to turn them down because they didn't have a licence," he said.

Waiopehu School principal Mark Robinson said their school valued the relationship with HLC in helping students on the right path once they leave school.

"It's really crucial we work together to deliver something practical to allow kids to be valued in the workforce," he said.

Horowhenua College principal Grant Congdon said it was a practical step in helping students achieve their goals, and the students themselves were enriched by the course.

"The business community has told us that a priority for them is that when our students leave they have at least a restricted licence and the students are realising the importance of it," he said.