Nelson College is building a trades education centre that will keep potential drop-outs at school and turn them into builders and automotive engineers.
The college says the academy is a model for other schools. By next year, up to 450 boys will be using four workshops, two spacious classrooms and large storage areas.
Headmaster Gary O'Shea says trades-based education has long been seen as a second-class school option, but the new centre will give the lie to that.
The academy model gives all boys a taste of trades-training. Those who are keen enough can continue with it and complete the first year of an apprenticeship at polytech level.
Mr O'Shea says the trade centre is far superior to Government-supported training cluster schemes based at polytechs.
He says having it at school also helps retain boys who might otherwise leave school at 15 or 16 to start an apprenticeship.
The $1 million project is being built without any funding from the Ministry of Education.
However, it has a backer in the Gibbons Group and other Nelson companies and suppliers who are contributing to project costs.
Nelson City Council sees the project as a boost to regional economic development and is contributing $10,000 in building consent costs.
Gibbons managing director Scott Gibbons says the time and money the company is investing will be well worthwhile.
The centre will be built in time for the start of the 2012 school year.