A group of prisoners have put their time behind bars to good use - building a three-bedroom house to join Housing New Zealand's stock in Lower Hutt.

A team of eight inmates at Rimutaka Prison in Upper Hutt gained trade qualifications through WelTec while building the home, which will hopefully be in place and ready for someone to move into by Christmas.

The house was today lifted over the prison's perimeter fence in one piece by a specialist crane.

"Not only is this the first house to be built in the prison, it also provides hope for a positive future for the men who built it, and for the family who will live in it," said prison director Viv Whelan.

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"The men now have practical, hands-on experience backed up with a qualification that will help them into employment on release."

Gaining those skills and education can reduce the likelihood of reoffending, she said.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to one of the inmates currently learning a trade in prison. Photo / Supplied
Education Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to one of the inmates currently learning a trade in prison. Photo / Supplied

The prisoners built the 113sq m house on site last year as part of their 34-week New Zealand Certificate in Construction Trade Skills programme delivered by WelTec.

The programme is one of six trades training programmes available in the prison that lead to nationally-recognised qualifications.

WelTec and Whitireia Chief Executive Chris Gosling said the school's motto was "learning together, transforming lives".

"It's hard to think of a better example of a genuine, physical manifestation of that than the project we've been working together on with Corrections and Rimutaka over a few short months," he said.

It was "really positive" that the prisoners could see the result of their hard work.

For WelTec tutors, coming to teach at the prison was out of their comfort zone initially, but now they loved it, he said.

Prisoners can spend their time in jail gaining trade qualifications. Photo / Melissa Nightingale
Prisoners can spend their time in jail gaining trade qualifications. Photo / Melissa Nightingale

One of those tutors was Curtis Scott, who has been working with prisoners on and off for the last five years.

"They're a great bunch of guys. They struggle from time to time to follow instructions but that happens back at WelTec.

"We have a great rapport with myself and the students ... it's fun to be here."

One of the students, who cannot be named, had not worked on the house but was currently making his way through a 22-week course.

"I come from an agricultural background and I can use these skills wherever I can," he said.

"It's free education ... it's up to the individual whether they want to better themselves. The opportunity's here, it's up to you to take it."

The student said he had not been to prison before, and believed the public had a misconception of what prisoners are like.

"At the end of the day we all make mistakes ... given opportunities like this, prisoners can go a long way."

He said he had to make his time in prison beneficial for himself "because at the end of the day, regardless, I'm here."

Student prisoners are able to gain a free education to prepare themselves for time outside jail. Photo / Melissa Nightingale
Student prisoners are able to gain a free education to prepare themselves for time outside jail. Photo / Melissa Nightingale

Education Minister Chris Hipkins was at the prison today to talk to students and watch the house being lifted over the fence.

"[There's an] educational outcome, a prisoner reintegration outcome, and a housing outcome," he said.

"It's a good example of how we can connect things up to get a really good outcome for New Zealanders."

Housing New Zealand's ‎programme director Jonathan Scholes would not say yet where in Lower Hutt the house would be going, but said there were a few different sites they were looking at, and it would depend on the consent process.

He hoped a family would be able to move into the house near the end of the year.

Housing NZ are building up to another 300 houses in the Hutt Valley over the next few years, so the prison house-building initiative was welcome, he said.

A second house is in the early stages of construction by a different group of prisoners.

In 2017 WelTec delivered trades training to almost 150 men at Rimutaka Prison.

Skills and qualifications gained include constructions, pre-trade plumbing and gas fitting, decorating, and brick and blocklaying.

For about 42 per cent of Rimutaka learners it was their first year participating in tertiary education.

The courses that prisoners complete and the qualifications gained in prison are the same as the external programmes delivered by WelTec in the community at Petone.

In the last financial year 3,894 qualifications were achieved by prisoners nationally. Just under 2,000 prisoners participated in trades training.