A "life-changing" programme helping struggling women get into meaningful work is hoping to expand its reach with a funding boost from the Provincial Growth Fund.
The Development Hub, based in Hastings, was recently awarded $780,000 which will provide an extra eight courses over the next year and fund expansion into Napier, Wairoa, Central Hawke's Bay and Gisborne.
Managing director Sarah-Jo Barley said the three-week course taught basic job hunting skills such as CV writing and preparing for interviews, as well as a range of life skills, to women from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The course's holistic approach and intensive pastoral care actively helps find women employment, as well as teaching goal setting, budgeting and showing them how to get a drivers licence or access counselling, if needed.
This wrap-around service helped break down some of the barriers that prevented women from improving their lives, Ms Barley said.
"We see challenges around housing, substance abuse and family violence, but the main one is the lack of positive social connectiveness with others.
"What we see most often is candidates without CVs, cover letters, motivation and confidence. They don't necessarily don't want to be on a benefit, they want to be in work, but they don't have the practical skills to get there.
About 80 percent of graduates from the course go into a job or higher education.
A typical day on the course starts at 9am with a brisk walk to the park for some warm up exercises, a review of the previous day's lessons and then practicing handshakes with prospective employers.
Something as simple as knowing how to shake someone's hand in an interview helped to build confidence, she said.
"There is a big need for it, and there is that lack of confidence. Often people haven't had parents or friends who have said 'don't shake a hand like that ... greet with your eyes, stand tall."
One of the participants, Cadillac Walker, said the course had given her the confidence to turn her life around.
"I had a typical gang life ... drugs, violence and pretty much I had no sense of direction.
"Since I've come here everything has changed. My whole attitude has become positive and with the support I get from everybody here I don't feel like an outcast."
Ms Walker said she now felt she could realise her dream of one day becoming a youth worker.
"It will be a long journey but I know I can do it now," she said.
Another participant, Lyric Moorhouse, said she had always struggled at school and had ended up working in a job she did not really like. She now hoped to go back to study for a career in sports and recreation.
"It's been life changing. After this course my mindset is open to everything. I think I could now work and study. I am now so excited to get a stable job in a career I love."
The Development Hub has partnered with more than 50 local businesses who employed its graduates, and Ms Barley said they were keen to partner with even more as the programme expanded.