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Last Updated: Monday, 28 April, 2003, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
The millionaire school-leavers
Prince Charles and fashion designer Alexander McQueen
Prince and McQueen - different lives that led to millions
Hairdressing or plumbing skills are as likely to lead to Millionaire's Row as a university degree, rich parents or a professional career, according to a report.

The City & Guilds Vocational Rich List has pulled together Britain's wealthiest people who made their fortunes on the back of a trade qualification or apprenticeship.

The list includes mobile phone entrepreneur John Caudwell, the owner of the Phones 4U chain, and a number of well-known celebrities such as fashion designer Alexander McQueen, hairdresser John Frieda and the gardener Alan Titchmarsh.

City & Guilds, the UK's biggest vocational studies provider, suggested a firm grounding in practical skills from brick-laying to fashion can provide a direct route to riches.

John Caudwell, mobile phones, 840m
Trevor Hemmings, leisure and property, 480m
Jim McColl, industry (Clyde Blowers), 305m
John Frieda, hairdressing, 167m
Laurence Graff, diamonds, 157m
Jack Tordoff, car sales, 85m
Peter Dawson, truck hire, 82m
Sir Stan Clarke, racecourses and property, 80m
Robbie Cowling, internet, 75m
Kevin McDonald, industry, 75m

"What is clear is that for these individuals, a vocational qualification has been the foundation stone for extraordinary financial and commercial success," said Chris Humphries, director general at City & Guilds.

The Vocational Studies Rich List was compiled by Philip Beresford, the author of the Sunday Times Rich List.

It names Britain's top 25 so-called 'craft millionaires', who are together worth 2.7bn.

Mr Humphries said their success may inspire other school-leavers who feel their options are limited if they do not follow the traditional university or professional career route.

Phenomenal wealth

Among the wealthiest craftsmen are the leisure entrepreneur Trevor Hemmings, worth an estimated 480m, and fashion designer Karen Millen.

Ms Millen started selling shirts from her parents' house after a fashion course and now runs a chain of 50 high street stores in the UK.

Jamie Oliver
Jamie Oliver has rustled up an estimated 10m.

But the top slot is held by Mr Caudwell, who quit school after a term of A levels and began his career as an apprentice at the Michelin Tyre Company. He is now worth an estimated 840m.

Catering skills proved a lucrative alternative to academia for celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver, Gary Rhodes and Gordon Ramsay.

"Far from feeling hindered by a lack of A levels or a university degree, these craft millionaires have worked hard to gain practical skills at an early age," said Mr Humphries.

"They have used (these) to their advantage in forging prolific careers and amassing phenomenal wealth."

Trading up

Mr Humphries added that the example being set by such success stories had prompted a re-think of the traditional education route.

"People are realising a degree is not an automatic passport," he told BBC News Online.

"There are greater choices that they can make which can lead to success."

School-leavers are obviously waking up to the notion of craft-based wealth.

City & Guilds has recorded a 25% rise in student numbers in the last two years and a doubling in 29-40 year olds signing up for plumbing courses.

Mr Humphries said over 50% of modern apprenticeships are being taken up by students that have the GCSE and A level grades to go on to university but choose a practical qualification instead.

"They are realising there is more choice in life," he said.

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