Enrolments have been on the rise at NorthTec, with the campuses set to be teeming with new students next year.
A combination of Covid-19 and fees-free schemes have inspired a large number of students to upskill or switch to entirely new careers, largely offsetting the losses threatened by the lack of international students.
Applications for enrolment in the first semester of next year have increased by 48 per cent compared to this time last year.
NorthTec has experienced increases since their fees-free programme began on April 14, put in place in response to Covid-19.
"We received a 28 per cent increase in applications for enrolments as we came out of lockdown and into the middle of the year," said Jon Smith, acting chief executive of NorthTec.
For some students, the losses of lockdown also presented new opportunities.
Kaitlyn Hand was a flight attendant for Air New Zealand from 2017 until late June of this year, until her wings were clipped by mass redundancies for long-haul cabin crew.
She was offered furlough, but couldn't afford to wait around for at least a year to see if she could get in the air again.
"Living in Auckland and not having a job for potentially a year was not viable."
It was her NorthTec nursing alumni aunt who recommended she take a look at study, and less than a month later she was training to be a nurse.
Although she had some trepidation about the change, she is happy she did it.
"There was a bit of uncertainty. I thought, will I be able to do this course? But you know what? I'm surprising myself in this course, hugely."
Hand says she enjoys some of the same things in nursing that she did in being a flight attendant.
"I still had that feeling somewhere in myself that I wanted to provide that safety aspect to people," she said.
Another student who took lockdown as an opportunity to build on her favourite part of her current role was Amy Samson, who began her Bachelor of Applied Social Work in July.
"Being in a caring role has always been my passion," said Samson, who works as a caregiver for people with disabilities.
According to Samson, this made plain the lack of support received by the disabled and she wanted to find a way to fight for them.
"I see all the need for mental health and disability advocacy, and the lack of help," she said.
Like Kaitlyn Hand, she was prompted to pursue further study by the difficulties of
Before lockdown, she had been caring for an immuno-compromised man with cerebral palsy.
This meant once level 4 restrictions were in place, she was forced to stay home and had time to think about her prospects.
"I wanted to do more with myself," she said. "I had thought about it a few years ago but got too busy."
Meanwhile, the number of international students at NorthTec fell after the global travel shutdown.
"A total of 74 international students have deferred their study programmes," said Jon Smith.
"Like all New Zealand tertiary institutions, we have seen a significant drop."
However, a spokesperson from NorthTec said a large number of Northlanders are looking into further study.
"Inquiries are certainly trending up, partly because of the fees-free programme," said the spokesperson said.
Almost 40 NorthTec programmes will be offered fees-free next year as part of the economic recovery package for Northland.
Nursing, social work and hairdressing were among the courses with the biggest increase in interest.