Luke Bailey always had an interest in mechanics and when he saw an apprenticeship advertised at Whitehaven's Maules Creek mine he jumped at the opportunity to apply.
"I was born and raised in Narrabri, I always had an interest in the mining industry and in cars, and knew I wanted to stay in the area," said Luke.
"I always knew I wanted to work rather than go to university.
"I was interested in cars and my family was orientated around mechanics, but I didn't necessarily want to work only on cars for a job.
"I saw a position advertised in the local paper for a school based apprenticeship with Whitehaven's Maules Creek mine, and I thought it'd be interesting to work on gear like trucks and diggers that you don't usually come across every day."
From Year 11, Luke started doing three days a week at school, one day at TAFE, and one day at work as part of his mobile plant mechanic apprenticeship.
"Back then, the mine was still under construction so I started working at a local road transport workshop to get experience," he said.
"I finished Year 12 as a second year mobile plant mechanic apprentice and a few months later I was offered a role on site.
"I started at Maules Creek in 2015 and there were only nine trucks and two diggers, now we've got about 70 trucks and 10 diggers.
"I started off in the workshop and was on a shift rotation. Back then we had four crews who rotated around the clock.
"During my apprenticeship, every eight to 10 weeks I'd go to Tamworth TAFE for a week and I did that for about three years."
All up, Luke's apprenticeship was two years during school and three years on site, and he has been fully qualified for two years now.
He has since gone back to TAFE and got qualifications in road transport mechanics and to repair aircon in vehicles.
"In mining you're working on a lot of the same equipment, but I didn't expect that the company would be happy to send me off site to get more experience," said Luke.
"They sent me to one of our engineering suppliers out in Orange to rebuild engines sent from our site, and I did eight weeks in Singleton working on a grader rebuild. They've also put me through a supervisor's course so I can start learning to manage people and plan work for each day.
"Day to day though I'm on a good crew and I enjoy what I do."
Luke said he had always believed you don't need to go to university to get a good job.
"Everyone needs trades," said Luke. "If you're interested in pulling things apart and wanting to know how stuff works then mechanics might be for you."