A $2 million grant will set up a trades training academy in Kaitaia to give local youth the skills to get them employment.

"Warm and protected by a korowai" is the idea behind the name of He Korowai Trust, the enterprise in Kaitaia which has been housing and now plans on educating and employing young people in the Far North town.

He Korowai Trust will be opening a trades training academy for 17 to 24-year-olds to learn painting, decorating and carpentry.

The Sweet-As Academy, which stands for Students Without Employment and Education Training Achieving and Succeeding, will open in February next year and the support will not stop when students are trained.


Chie executive Ricky Houghton said the trust planned a house-moving course and company within 18 months to employ the students after they graduated as tradespeople.

"What these young people need is skills and to be able to contribute to their families, they need employment, they need mana.

"This will give them the ability and skills to see hope and it will give them opportunities never thought possible in terms of being able to contribute in a real constructive way."

The academy will cater to more than 40 students and has classrooms ready to go on land the trust bought on the fringes of Kaitaia. The 20ha has been turned from farmland into semi-residential with newly housed families and a preschool.

A grant of more than $2 million has been injected into the project from Foundation North.

The money will go towards setting up the academy as part of the trust's long-term strategy.

Academy director Toddy Shepherd, of Ngati Kahu descent, has a background in education and previously managed the Hauraki Maori Trust Board.

Shepherd was excited to come home and lead something which would combine education and social services.

"It's something quite different because I don't think you can deal with those issues independently," she said. "This is my home, these are my people and I have a genuine interest in them."

She said the course would be tailored to support students, which would include following up on absences and getting families involved so everyone was on board.

"People really need to commit to this programme, this is real trades training. It's a long-term strategy and it's full-on."

Ms Shepherd described herself as "a bit of a disability guru" and she would like to provide opportunities for people with mobility issues.

The academy will provide level 2 qualifications in partnership with NorthTec but was talking with the polytech about higher level training.

Students would work on nine houses that would go on to house families, which Mr Houghton said was the idea.

"We're going to set up the company and we're going to employ them, that's a key outcome in the whole thing, to address the housing needs both within and beyond the community in a manner never thought possible."

Houghton said he had been an "angry young man" once, but after being institutionalised at a young age and becoming a dad at 14 he made a promise to himself he would make a difference in the world.

And the trust has been making a difference in Kaitaia - helping people into affordable emergency housing and homeownership. Its services include pastoral care such as budgeting, addiction counselling, medical care and a community garden.

Houghton was grateful he could help move individuals and families from state dependence to independence.

"People have choices but what a lot of people don't have at the moment is options. We are happy that we're here to give the people an option."