Labour has announced it is promising three years of free post-school education or training.
Leader Andrew Little's ambitious pledge came out of the party's Future of Work Commission, set up to tackle the changes technology is forcing on jobs and workplaces.
Mr Little delivered his speech today at a family day picnic in Auckland's Albert Park, where he promised an "education system for the 21st century".
"We are entering an age where education through your life is more necessary than ever," he said.
The higher education, apprenticeships or skills training could be drawn on at any time over a person’s lifetime, and there’s no upper age limit.
The flexibility means someone who loses their job can retrain in a new career.
The deal would be available to all new school leaders from 2019 for all NZQA-approved courses and apprenticeships, and to all Kiwis who haven't had a tertiary education.
Participants would have to pass more than half their course in the first year, to be able to draw on the second and third years.
Mr Little claims Labour can pay for the policy out of current budgets, initially costing $256 million a year, then $1.2 billion a year when fully implemented in 2025.
The policy includes a promise to review tertiary courses to make sure they are value for money.
In 2005, Labour won re-election after pledging to make student loans interest free for those who stayed in New Zealand.
The party noted today that tertiary numbers have fallen by 20 per cent since National took office, but total student debt is up by 50 per cent. Fees have risen by 37 per cent.
The Labour leader has endured a tumultuous week after former leaders Phil Goff and David Shearer publicly contradicted him by speaking in favour of the trans-Pacific trade deal.
MPs had agreed to back to his stance on opposing the 12-country pact, which was announced on Wednesday.
As a former trade minister involved in early negotiations, Mr Goff was given permission, but Mr Shearer was chastised by Little and ordered to make a public apology.