Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced $640,000 worth of funding for KiwiRail to support 20 prisoners to go through a programme over the next two years.
The "Second Steppers" programme will provide training and support for the prisoners with the hope of getting them into full-time work.
KiwiRail expects the first group of five prisoners to begin work at its Whangārei depot by the end of the month.
KiwiRail Group Chief executive Greg Miller told Morning Report the programme is designed to help up-skill the prisoners.
Miller said they will be focussed on how they can improve their skills and grow their mana while reintegrating into society.
"They get track training, they get taught safety, personal behaviour, attitudes at work, components around safely working on a rail corridor, things to do with assembly of track components, and physical work in the field."
Miller said prisoners who go on the programme can get out of prison earlier and make a better life for themselves. The initial cohort will be selected by Corrections.
"The prison service looks very hard at the pros of a prisoner to say what's able to fit in with KiwiRail's agenda and the type of person we want to employ."
Miller said it's "fantastic" the Provincial Growth Fund has supported them and they will be matching the funding by around a third.