Posted on 10/12/2018

Mature-age apprentice painter shows finesse

Mature-age apprentice painter shows finesse

Youlu Zhao was a teenager when he migrated to Australia from China and spent his first years learning English and working in the hospitality industry in Sydney.  

It wasn’t until he made the trek across the Nullabor to WA that he was able to follow his dream of becoming a painter and decorator.

Since then, Mr Zhao has put in the hard yards completing a four-year apprenticeship, followed by further education and training to become a registered painter.  

He is now fully qualified and getting started in his own business, Finesse Painters & Decorators.  

When Mr Zhao started his apprenticeship at 27 years of age, his goal was to do whatever it took to be the best painter and decorator he could.  

“Looking back, it was hard work but I had good mentors and many people supporting my career,” he said.

Mr Zhao was trained by MPA Skills and hosted by Pretl & Williams, whose director Billy McLaren was highly impressed by Mr Zhao’s dedication and skill.

“He was an exceptional apprentice who showed initiative right from the start,” Mr McLaren said.

“It’s unusual to keep an apprentice for the full four years but we could see his potential and were happy to put in the time to give him a very broad range of experiences in the industry.

“In return, he showed that he had the ability, confidence and responsibility to complete tasks on his own.  We knew he’d get there on time, do a great job and clean up afterwards.”

MPA Field Officer, onsite assessor and apprentice mentor Donna Austin said Mr Zhao was a model apprentice and made the most of all the opportunities that came his way.

“Youlu entered the annual Apprenticeship of the Year Awards three years running and gained great results every time,” she said.

“His supervisors at Pretl & Williams gave him some incredible training in the use of methods and applications that most painters don’t see in a lifetime.

“In particular, he was able to see first-hand how to apply gold leaf coating during the renovation of the Palace Hotel in the Perth CBD – and he was learning from the best in the business.”

Now, as a registered painter and with the blessing of his host company, Mr Zhao is getting his own business up and running.  

He says being his own boss was a dream come true.

“Painting is not just a job for me, it’s a passion.  I’ve always loved being a painter and I get great satisfaction from seeing the beauty of a job well done,” he said.

Being a mature-aged apprentice had its good points and bad.  

“At the time, I had my wife and baby girl to support so I did a lot of overtime, working on weekends and any spare time I had,” Mr Zhao said.

“I was lucky to get so much experience across all aspects including wallpapering.

“I think in some ways it was better to be a bit older because it was easier to focus on what’s important and not waste time.”

MPS Skills offers Pre-Apprenticeships for Painting and Decorating, which gives students a true insight into the industry.  

Pre-Apprenticeships are the first step to gaining a full time apprenticeship and units completed can be credited against the training required for the apprenticeship.  

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