The targeted trades training fund has received applause from the industry for helping workers get into jobs and keeping the economy moving.
Apprenticeships across all industries will be fully subsidised in a bid to bolster employment prospects.
The Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund will pay the tuition costs of people of any age who sign up for vocational training.
In some cases, apprentices and trainees could save as much as $6500 for each year of learning.
Jeremy Buck was in his mid-20s, working a desk job for a charity, when he took a punt on a career change. Now 32, he is a fully qualified builder and thrilled he made the switch.
"I'm really pleased. I wanted to do something more practical, outside, and having skills that I could use in my personal life, on DIY projects or building my own house one day," Buck said.
Now retraining might be an option for others, with the added sweetener of no fees.
For those whose future might be uncertain in their current industry, "building could well be a good future", Buck said.
Training group Building and Construction Industry chief executive Warwick Quinn said this policy would play a critical role in getting people earning money again and the economy moving.
"Having access to training that's free, quick and available is key to making sure people stay in work for as long as possible or have a very short time out of work while they're having to upskill," he said.
Building and Construction Industry chief executive Warwick Quinn. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas
It is not only for builders. Apprenticeships in all industries and a range of other vocational courses are covered - all free from next month until the end of 2022.
The government is targeting areas where there are good job prospects, with $320 million allocated to the scheme.
The Manukau Institute of Technology is expecting at least a 10 percent increase in enrolments. Chief executive Gus Gilmore knows the cost of courses does stop some prospective students.
"It will be very attractive for all of those employees who've been made redundant or displaced," Gilmore said.
"To enable them to get straight back into some retraining, so that they can move into sectors where there are jobs and career prospects - it just removes a barrier for these folks who find themselves in an unfortunate situation through no fault of their own."
The dairy industry is encouraging local trainees and entrants into the sector, deprived of foreign labour with the borders closed.
Federated Farmers board member Chris Lewis encouraged skilled workers to jump at the opportunity because there was a labour shortage currently, just weeks out from calving season.
"Put your application in at the right time and you might find your secure job very quickly. If you're in desperate need for a job and you've got a trade that's practical, you'll probably find that doors open very quickly for you."
Training for some community support work is also funded, including youth and elderly care, and mental health and addiction support.
Mental health not-for-profit Changing Minds chief experience officer Taimi Allan is thrilled the government has recognised the value of the sector, especially as it too is in need of staff.
She said they were after trained workers with lived experience of mental health issues.
"People who have been there, done that, and help other people through it. What we've found historically is that those are the people who are most likely to bring some benefits to this industry but the least likely to afford the training needed to go into it."
The government said it would review the eligible courses before 2021.
"We know as a result of Covid-19, many New Zealanders will be looking to retrain and employers in key sectors will need more skilled people," Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said.
Apprentices and learners whose courses started earlier in the year but continue beyond 1 July will be eligible for a partial refund.
- Agriculture, horticulture and viticulture
- Fisheries, aquaculture and forestry
- Construction, including building, plumbing, and civil engineering
- Community support, including youth work, care for elderly, counselling, mental health and addiction support;
- Manufacturing and mechanical engineering and technology
- Electrical engineering
- Road transport
More details are on the Tertiary Education Commission website.