Not so many years ago it seemed apprenticeships had all but faded away.
Fortunately for Niall Shannon there was at least one local business willing to give a youngster a colourful opportunity.
Niall thought all his birthdays had come at once when, following a chance meeting, he was offered the chance to train... as a tattooist.
He said: “After leaving Wisewood School I enrolled on a course at college to study live music. But after three months I realised it wasn’t for me.
“So I dropped out and did pretty much nothing for the next five months.
“I then got an interview for a job at a joinery firm after which I had arranged to meet my mum at the Forgiven Tattoo Studio in Cricket Inn Road, Wybourn.
“While I was waiting there I got chatting to the owner, Steve Lewis, and mentioned to him that I had always been interested in art. And he said well why don’t you apply to become an apprentice tattooist with us?
“So I did and am so grateful to Steve for giving me a chance to prove myself.”
The first part of Niall’s training was one thing, over and over again.
“At first it was clean, clean, clean. I’d clean the shop, I’d clean the toilet, I even cleaned Steve’s car.
“But it taught me a valuable lesson – as Steve would constantly remind me of the importance of cleanliness and hygiene in tattooing.
“He would say: ‘If you can’t clean the toilet right, then how can you be expected to keep the high standard of cleanliness and hygiene necessary to do a tattoo?’.”
Niall spent the next two years mashing tea and observing the other tattooists at work. Now aged 21 and fully qualified, he’s fast gaining a reputation as a top tattoo artist.
Steve said: “Niall Shannon was 16 and just bumming around not doing very much with his life but we saw potential in the lad so gave him a chance.
“Five years on we’re glad we did. He’s completed his apprenticeship and has been working full time tattooing for three years. His artwork and custom designs are amazing and very popular.”