A job behind an office desk has always been out of the question for high school student Liam Holroyd.
The 17-year old from Whangārei Boys' High School is one of over 500 Northlanders who currently take part in the Trades Academy programme linking their school education with vocational training.
Trades Academies are specifically laid out for students, like Liam, who are interested a trades qualification and allow them to acquire trades-related skills while still at school.
"Normal school wasn't for me," Liam realised at the end of the last school year. "I wanted to do something that would get me a job."
A friend of Liam's had completed the programme the previous year and recommended it to him.
Since Boys' High is one of 26 participating schools in the region, Liam joined the academy, acquiring transferable NCEA qualifications and gaining work experience in the field.
With additional funding, announced by government last week, New Zealand schools will be able to offer 2000 new Trades Academies and potentially narrow the persistent skilled labour gap.
"We are committed to reversing the long-term decline in trades training," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last week.
"Trades skills shortages is a key issue business regularly raise with me and this programme is one step in the government's plan to plug that gap.
"We want more people to see careers in areas like building, plumbing and agriculture as an attractive and first-option when they leave school to close the persistent skills gap in our country."
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Government also announced funding for Gateway, a similar school-based learning programme for year 11-13 students designed to support their transition into the workforce.
Through Gateway, students gain placements with collaborating businesses and get work-related experience throughout the school year.
Thirty schools Northland-wide associated with Gateway this year, resulting in over 1100 placements.
Several hundred employers from across the region currently participate.
"Secondary-tertiary initiatives such as Gateway and Trades Academies have contributed to young people getting higher qualifications and more students getting jobs when they leave school," Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.
Trades Academies have been effective in increasing the number of young people who attain NCEA Level 2 or equivalent, according to the minister.
The Te Taitokerau Trades Academy, which is led by Tikipunga High School, is currently allocated 490 places.
Alec Solomon, Tikipunga High school principal, said the newly funded academies had not yet been allocated.
Northland would submit an application which could mean "a greater range of opportunity for a greater number of students".
Solomon said Te Taitokerau was different to other regions as schools often collaborate with only one tertiary provider; whereas Northland partnered up with a range of institutions, including NorthTec, the National Trades Academy, Palmerston North School of Design, Queenstown Resort College and the Solomon Group.
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Whangārei Boys' High School also receives support from several local businesses and had an external employer coming in to teach the class. Some of the students completed welding and forklift courses.
WBHS offered their Trades Academy to 17 students this year, almost half of whom left the programme prematurely to start an apprenticeship or a job.
Teacher Iain Haynes has a tradesman background and oversees the WBHS academy.
He said while the course mostly evolved around engineering and automotive design, the students would learn generic skills that translate to all industries.
"The idea is to provide a pathway for boys who want to go into the trades. These [students] have already made a decision for themselves and are invested in their education," Haynes said.
Students go through an interview process to ensure they understand the commitment before signing up to the academy as the course completely takes over their school education.
Haynes said as the academy tutor, his task is often reduced to facilitating the various projects because the students bring a refined skillset into class and are often "more than capable".
"When you're losing boys halfway through the year to jobs you know they're doing something right. It's magic to watching these boys mature."
Together with his classmates, Liam built two demolition derby cars, chopper bikes, pit bikes and several go-karts which were not only functional but fit for a race on the speedway.
The academy wasn't Liam's first hands-on experience in the mechanical field; however, he said the course taught him to work to a higher quality standard.
Liam said he was interested is range of trades but if he could choose any apprenticeship, Liam would want to work in the marine industry as he enjoys sailing in his free time.
As part of the course, Liam completed a six-day placement at a Whangārei sail maker where he did "anything from sweeping the floor to sewing".
After his training, Liam wants to take his tradesman skills overseas to travel and work for a while.