Markus Mueller has come a long way since walking into a training pop-up store at a Cairns shopping centre just six years ago.

At the time, he had been operating a small lawn-mowing and landscaping service but had no formal qualifications.

Markus seized the opportunity to complete a subsidised Certificate 3 in Landscaping and has not looked back; now running a substantial landscaping company working with some of the leading landscape architects and designers in the Cairns region.

His company, Outdoor Solutions Queensland, provides high-end quality landscape constructions for commercial and residential projects and delivers complete grounds maintenance services for commercial and residential clients.

The company was recently awarded the “People Management Excellence Award” at the James Cook University 2019 Business Excellence Awards.

“We make no secret of the fact that we want to be known as the best landscaping operators in the Cairns industry,” he says.

Markus’ original motivation for training was to improve his own career prospects but his experience has been so positive that he has become a champion for training and skilling others.

“I originally wanted to get out of lawn mowing and gardening and to better myself, and the Cert 3 helped me do that.

“There is a big difference in pay – between what you can earn being an unskilled worker and being a tradesman.

“I have many had many employees who have gone and gotten the same certificate through the same training scheme I did.

“I sponsored them, wrote them their letters and signed off on them doing the work. They had the skills already and they were qualified through CSQ funding.

“Employing apprentices is a big part of our business – we currently have three apprentices in the business and had another one complete their apprenticeship in November.

Two of the apprentices are now leading hands – responsible for paperwork, running the job site, purchase orders, toolbox meetings, taking photos, and reporting to the operations manager.

Markus has some of his own rules for taking on apprentices, including only hiring adult apprentices (‘they’ve earnt the privilege of having full-time work’) and never advertising apprenticeships.

“We take people on as labourers on a casual basis and they earn their stripes, by being reliable, punctual, and having a good attitude.

“After a month or so, if they show they fit in, we put them on full-time and say to them ‘look, if you’re interested, we’re willing to give you an apprenticeship in structural landscaping and we will pay you adult wages’ (we always pay above award).”

He may now be in a position to mentor and support people who are just getting started on their career pathway, but Markus considers himself to be a life-long learner.

“I believe it’s important to embrace the learning process, because even now, being in business for 10 years and employing 12 people, I am still learning every day.”