An alliance between a Waikato trade academy and schools in the rohe is proving fruitful for rangatahi, who are gaining more qualifications.
Fairfield School is one of 27 kura partnering with Waikato Institute of Technology to fill what they say is a gap for some students who were disengaged from the mainstream school system.
Principal Richard Crawford said they realised what they were doing was not working for some of their rangatahi.
He said it had created a programme called 'Trades Academy Construction Infrastructure', a partnership between the kura and the institute, which taught practical skills to years 11 to 13.
Institute youth product manager Rachel Trenewan said the programme gave people who were not doing well in the traditional academic based system an opportunity to achieve in another way.
"It's a real tipping point for senior secondary school education, in recognising that only 30 percent of our secondary school learners go on to a degree level qualification, but the entire secondary school system is targeted at academic learners.
"So there's 70 percent of students out there not being catered for in the traditional school subject - so the trade academy takes a qualification like NCEA and makes it relevant for those students."
The programme has run since 2011, starting with 48 students from 12 secondary schools. This year it has 560 students from 27 secondary schools across the Waikato.
Mrs Trenewan said the programme was part of a government initiative aimed at having 85 percent of all 18-year-olds achieving NCEA level 2 by 2017.
She said the students went to the institute one day out of their school week and spent an entire day working on a vocation.
"That really excites them."
She said that excitement had turned into improvement in marks for Māori students.
"For 2014, our average achievement for all students was 77 percent. And for Māori and Pacifika it was 70 per cent.
"They are achieving at higher rates than they are in the school system, because if you look at NCEA achievements for non-Māori and Pacifika, it's 83 percent, and for Māori and Pacifika, it sits at 60 to 70 percent."
She said the results showed an incremental improvement, achieved by making learning relevant to the students concerned.
"They could see that what they were doing in school could actually lead to a career so it really engaged them back into education and the purpose of education."