Nathan Hamilton credits a new job in Balclutha with giving him a fighting chance at life.
Now, he and Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan are urging other Dunedin job-seekers to follow in his footsteps and head south.
Their call came before tomorrow's Clutha Dunedin Job Fair, being staged at the Dunedin Centre's Fullwood Room from 3pm.
The event aimed to match Dunedin job-seekers with employers seeking to fill hundreds of vacancies in South Otago.
Mr Hamilton (20), of South Dunedin, said he had already reaped rewards after swapping low-paid work in Dunedin for a role at Danone's milk powder plant in Balclutha earlier this year.
The change meant a daily commute to and from Balclutha, but also a well-paid position with a four-day-on, four-day-off roster, and full training, he said.
Mr Hamilton said he had been studying towards a qualification in personal training at Otago Polytechnic when he decided to pull out last year.
''I didn't want to continue to spend that much time per week studying something I didn't think I really wanted to do when I finished.
''I thought it was better to just get out and start work.''
The decision led him to low-paid work in Dunedin, but his search for something better was frustrated until a friend told him of job vacancies - offering pay of $1000 a week - in South Otago.
There was one condition - Mr Hamilton would first have to complete a BASE Training Camp, run by Hannah Grills at the old Caledonian gymnasium, and Mr Cadogan's own Ready, Steady, Work initiative in Balclutha.
''I was perfectly happy with that.''
Both courses were ''very important'' to his eventual success, but the BASE Training Camp initiative, in particular, encouraged job-seekers to ''think long-term'' while improving their physical fitness.
It also led to an introduction to Andrew Johns, the operations manager at Danone's Balclutha plant, and, in January this year, work as an AWS contractor at the Danone plant.
That transformed into a full-time job with Danone in July, and Mr Hamilton's responsibilities have grown since - from days spent opening heavy bags, to responsibility for a packing machine at the end of the plant's production line.
Mr Hamilton confessed he had not contemplated factory life before, but had not looked back since.
''I never thought I'd be doing anything like this. It's cool that it's kind of found me and I've found it.''
He urged anyone in need of work to consider following in his footsteps by heading South.
''If they're looking for work, they have to go look for it. Work isn't going to find them.
''There's money to be made, but you have to find it and you may have to look out of Dunedin,'' he said.
Mr Cadogan said Mr Hamilton had proven to be a ''stellar performer'' who had ''just absolutely U-turned his life''.
''He's up and going for it.
''To think of the money he was on ... to where you are a year later, it's transformational.
''I take my hat off [to him]. He's put his head down and he's done it himself.''
Mr Cadogan also urged others in need of work to come along to tomorrow's jobs fair.
''I'm really worried that when we do this job fair, that there's going to be a kid like Nathan sitting at home, not knowing that a chance is sitting right under his nose.''