A new strategy is being developed to channel Northland's youth into fruitful career paths.
It's hoped the strategy will act as road map for Māori and Pasifika, aged 15 to 24, to get the skills they need to fill industry gaps.
A hui between job creators and educators took place at Ōtiria Marae in Moerewa on Wednesday, organised by Te Matarau Education Trust.
Trust general manager Huhana Lyndon says it was about building bridges, but not the North's infamous one-way kind.
"We're more interested in building bridges between our communities, industry and our education sector," says Ms Lyndon.
"This will be the first time we've had a cohesive plan between all those sectors here in the North.
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"This hui is about hearing where the need for workers is and creating a road map for training providers to help young people get there.
"This is isn't just about jobs - Northland Māori don't just want jobs. We want careers and clear career pathways, and that is what this aims to deliver."
Business and industry leaders, principals from local high schools, tertiary education providers and community representatives were among those gathered at Ōtiria Marae.
Northland College principal Jim Luders hopes the strategy will help secondary school students see the potential in trades and industry.
"I think, traditionally, secondary schools have had a focus on university, but need to liaise more with business to better understand the requirements and opportunities available," he says
"I often say, when you look out the window at the local harbour, most of those boats are owned by tradesmen or business people, not those who went to university."
Mr Luders believes that a focus on university at secondary schools can make students who value trades pathways feel disheartened.
"Without a doubt, the schools that offer trades training have huge buy-in and success with those students," he says.
"[Schools] should be making sure we do what's best for the kids, even if it's not what's best for our roll or the universities' roll.
"I'm optimistic about this strategy, because it's being developed by Māori for Māori and that way we know the child will be at the centre of the issue."
The initiative has partnered with the Passport to Life pilot, which was allocated $12m over four years through the Māori Party's support deal with the last National-led Government.
But it also has the support of the new Labour-led Government.
"I think it's great that you've got groups coming together, and putting in place plans and strategies in terms of young people," says Employment Minister Willie Jackson.
"We're committed to investing in young people and our economy to build a workforce for the future, with new skills to meet changing demands."
Mr Jackson says the Government's fees-free policy for post-school education will also help break down barriers for those wanting to upskill. It currently pays for two years of trade training or one year of university.
Te Matarau Education Trust, which is leading the work on the strategy, aims to have it completed in the next month, with work to commence on a full implementation plan by May.