Personal hardships have meant they haven't worked in years, but a bunch of new hospitality school graduates can't wait to get going.
One graduate, Laures Tumata, told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp she "went through 12 years of depression, through losing a child" and "couldn't find my way out".
"It creates your own dark space - your thinking stops for everybody else, the loneliness, no one to talk to."
"I couldn’t think. didn't eat for months. Got up to give my kids' breakfast, send them off to school, then went straight back to bed, then make sure I was up at 3 o'clock for their dinners. It's been like that for 12 years."
Her wake-up call was a programme between the Government and private hotels which help people like her get back to work.
The programme gives students two weeks of classroom learning, several weeks of on-the-job training and guaranteed hospitality work at the end of the course.
"Every day's a smile, every hour's a smile. [My family are] so proud, and I'm not used to that faced to me from my children."
One new graduate, Gabby Wairiki, is one of the few people in her family to have a job.
"I'm the oldest so I set the examples for my siblings, and just being a role model, really," Ms Wairiki said.
"Just having a cause gives you an opportunity to show yourself, to show who you really are."
For Courtney Tangihaere, who became deaf and was later diagnosed with cancer, laundry service is his security blanket.
"It's actually put me back in the workforce, I've got a purpose to get up in the morning, to come to work," Mr Tangihaere said.
Mr Tangihaere was unemployed for five years after the diagnoses, sending his life spiraling.
"I actually lost my hearing first. I suffered depression, from anxiety attacks, panic attacks, stopped eating, closed myself off from the world. No one knew what I had - I actually had to google my symptoms," he said.
"I basically shut myself out from the world, and I lived in darkness 'cause I couldn't hear. I started getting to a stage where 'urgh, this is my life, [I'm] just gonna wait 'til benefit day."
Mr Taingihaere, Ms Taumata and Ms Wairiki join 800 other participants who have since graduated from the programme.