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Hard work pays off for Youlu Zhao

Banksia Grove resident 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 Western Australia that he was able to follow his dream to become a painter and decorator.

Since then, Youlu 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 Painting and Decorating.

When Youlu 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 be.

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

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

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

MPA Field Officer, onsite assessor and apprentice mentor, Donna Austin says Youlu 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,” Donna said.

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

“In particular, Youlu, 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,” Donna said.

Now, as a registered painter, and with the blessing of his host company, Youlu is getting his own business up and running.  He says being his own boss is 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,” Youlu said.

According to Youlu, 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. I was lucky to get so much painting experience across all aspects including wallpapering,” Youlu said.

“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.   More information: visit

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