10 Mar 2005, 12:47:17 PM

Reporter: Andrea Burns

No degree but pulling in big bucks...

Many tradespeople are outstripping their uni-educated mates - and laughing all the way to the bank.

Westrac employee Mark Whittle is twenty two years old and earns $90,000 a year after completing a heavy machinery apprenticeship.

As an apprentice of the year, there's no doubt Mark is good at what he does, but he doesn't think his case is special.

"I'm not the only one that's earning $90,000, there are blokes younger than me earning more than that, just depending on where you want to work," he said

Carpenter Zach Goss is only 20 years old, but he earns $80,000. He snowboards in Europe for up to three months at a time.

"I've recently bought another property so I pay off two mortgages at the moment and go on nice holidays overseas and stuff," he said.

Also an apprentice of the year, Zac now regularly visits schools, encouraging others to think about a trade.

The Prime Minister says the country needs more people like Zac and Mark.

Clare Thomas from the WA Chamber of Minerals and Industry says a national resources boom has highlighted a dire shortage of skilled workers.

"The likes of the traditional trades like mechanical, electrical, instrumental are really critical shortages for the industry, so we really need to see people engaging in these trades and looking for the significant career paths that they offer," she said

Big salaries are one benefit - the other, while university students are racking up huge HECS debts, trade apprentices are paid while they learn.

Apprenticeships are regularly advertised in the West Australian newspaper.

For construction industry apprenticeships, contact:

The Building and Construction Industry Training Fund

1st Floor, the Business Centre, Home Base

55 Salvada Road SUBIACO WA 6008

phone - 9381 3900

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