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From groundsman to auto electrician

By Sue White
Sydney Morning Herald
Although Jamie Bradley loved his former career as a landscaper and groundsman, it came unexpectedly.

"I moved from Victoria to northern NSW about nine years ago and began doing odd jobs at service stations or mowing lawns," he says.

"My girlfriend at the time was working at a resort and a position came up as a groundsman."
Bradley took the job and found himself working at the Blue Dolphin Holiday Resort in Yamba, about an hour south of Byron Bay.

"The job was great. I was good with staff and as a leader. My manager picked up on that and I soon became head groundsman, with five staff on my team," he says.

"The biggest part of my job was to make sure the park looked good. I got to be outside, either mowing lawns, helping gardeners or [looking] after the grounds," he says. "We'd run around on pushcarts or bicycles - it kept me pretty fit."

With up to 1000 people a day arriving at peak periods such as Christmas and Easter, Bradley's role was essential to the smooth running of the park.

"It was a pretty big park, so when a customer arrived a groundsman would take them to their site - you had to co-ordinate it well or you'd have a line of caravans stretched along the road," he says.

All went well until the global financial crisis, when Bradley was made redundant. A chance meeting with an old friend who owned a nearby auto electrics business led him to his new career.

"He knew I was a reasonably hard worker and had my head screwed on [so offered me work]. It was a big drop in wages, so I chatted to my partner, Debbie, and realised [auto electrics] would get me through to retirement," he says.

After a few months of working together his new boss took him on as an apprentice and, at 40, Bradley went back to school. He's now in the second year of his apprenticeship, which sees him learning on the job at Passmore Auto Air and Electrical in Maclean, as well as in the classroom at TAFE.

"I go to school three days in a row every three weeks at the TAFE in Grafton. It's great going back to school with all the young guys - I'd forgotten about their larrikin nature," he says.

Working as an apprentice auto electrician involves removing parts and repairing alternators, starter motors and circuit boards.

"I've just started repairing things, as I'm not into my third year yet. It's never been boring. The place I work is always busy and there's always something going on."

He's also pleased with his new chosen direction for less-obvious reasons. "It's a lot cleaner than being a mechanic and I think it's a lot more interesting," he says.

"I don't want to upset mechanics but cars these days have so many electronics [that] my job is really fascinating."

Bradley says age is also on his side. "I'm getting quite high marks. I've progressed faster than some young apprentices, probably because of my age," he says.

In fact, being older than his classmates doesn't bother him.

"I get along quite well with the young guys. They ask me questions so it's teaching me, too, as I have to think about the answers!"

Then

Salary: $800 a week.
Work-life balance: "It was pretty good, especially living in Yamba. We lived about a minute from the beach and there was also the Clarence River, so there was lots of time on the water."
Hours: 40 hours a week, spread over four 10-hour days. "I was pretty lucky, I had three days off a week."

Now

Salary: Bradley began on $400 a week as an apprentice. "It's increasing now. It's still not what it was but I'm looking at the bigger picture."
Work-life balance: "Not too bad. I get the weekends off and my boss has a 27-foot yacht, so we go out racing every couple of weeks."
Hours: 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Miss: "Working outside and being able to get my feet wet at work [the holiday park had boats on site]."
Challenges: "Now I know I can do the job, I'm not finding anything too much of a challenge. I've always liked being able to give something a go."

Published: 05 November 2011


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