White Collar Blue

Reporter: Rodney Lohse

Swapping a white collar career for a blue one is the great Australian job migration, and across the country doctors, lawyers, teachers and accountants are turning their backs on desk jobs to get their hands dirty.

Sam Jeboult was the envy of many. After slaving his way through university, he finally landed that job he was after as a lawyer. "It was very stimulating and you're very connected. I liked that aspect of it, but the 80 hour weeks and the pressure of dealing with other people's problems day in day out, I didn't like", Sam said.

His partner Ali King had done the same -- but both threw in their jobs to sail a boat from Europe to Australia and when they got back, the law just didn't seem as attractive. Ali gave up the law to sell vintage clothing on the internet, while Sam really traded the white collar for a blue one - he is now a tree lopper. "There's a lot to it, its a bit edgey, it's a bit dangerous. If its done properly its not dangerous but there's always risks involved. There's a lot of knot craft, its very engineering brain-type thing -- you've got to think about the way things are going to swing, where they're going to land", Sam said.

And surprisingly the pay is not that different, which is about half million dollars a year. Meanwhile Ali says she was making more money from e-bay before she even quit being a lawyer. "I think the trick for people is to work with something they have a passion for", Ali said.

For Alan Dunworth it was a passion for his family and the outdoors that lead him to throw in a job as a human resources consultant, So he started up his own handyman business, and hasn't looked back. "My family was very supportive, my wife was very supportive, the kids get to see me more now so they're very supportive", he said.

"People are looking for three things - lifestyle, more money, and they want to be their own boss. The blue collar industries are now able to give people that exactly", said Serena Russo Apprenticeship Services General Manager, Mark Berlese. Mark says blue collar jobs offer it all, and says that is being driven by a mining and construction boom. "It's all about skill shortage -- supply and demand -- there are not enough people".

It was the skills shortage that forced Nicola Fleck's hand. Her husband Martin Fleck runs his own plumbing business and was struggling to find an apprentice -- so he hired his wife. "I was probably ready for a change, I'd been thinking about it for a while so we just decided we will give it a try", Nicola said.

It was a big step considering Nicola had been bringing home the big bucks as a credit controller for some major multinational clients. The pay was better as a credit controller compared to that of an apprentice plumber, but Nicola says she's hopeful in time, their small business will easily catch up to and overtake her white collar salary. But its not just about the money. Its about the flexibility for the family, its about having our own business", she said.