OLD Bar's Marc Schielzeth was 30 years old when a chance encounter with a local tradesman sparked a career change.
Having worked as an electrical wholesaler at Cetnaj in Taree, he had a good understanding of the industry and admits to having considered doing an apprenticeship in the past, but it was a meeting with local electrician Josh Cross, of J and L Cross Electrical, that really gave him the push to pursue a trade.
"I enjoyed my job but I just felt that maybe I needed a change and needed something more, so when I ran into Josh and he made a passing comment about starting an apprenticeship, I thought 'yeah I'm keen'," explained Marc.
"I went home and had a chat with my wife, then I met up with Josh and within a couple of weeks I was employed."
Although the first couple of years of an apprenticeship can be a struggle financially, particularly for Marc who had just bought a house, there were government incentives to assist with expenses.
"It's short term pain for long term gain," he laughed.
"Honestly, it was hard work but the time went so fast and now I'm a qualified tradesmen, it's so worth it in the end."
And in that four years Marc managed to impress not only his employer but also the North Coast Institute of TAFE and was recently announced as the apprentice of the year for the region.
He first heard about the awards ceremony in February when Port Macquarie TAFE, where he attended, contacted him to say they would like him to apply for the award.
"I had to fill out a form, answer some questions and from there I met with a panel," said Marc.
"Then I got an invite to the awards dinner at Coffs Harbour and I thought maybe I was in with a chance."
The award is for the best apprentice across all trades and is a huge achievement for Marc.
"I couldn't believe it when I realised I'd won," he continued.
"They started to read out a bit about the winner, before they announced the name and I thought 'wait a minute, that's me'," Marc laughed.
He puts the achievement down to working hard and having a great boss to guide him, crediting Josh's strong work ethic, attention to detail and high standards as giving him the best platform to learn.
"He's been a great boss and I'm really grateful to him and Larissa (Josh's wife and business partner) for taking me on."
Marc would recommend a mature age apprenticeship to anyone and said he couldn't be happier with his decision.