NotGoingToUni takes a look at an apprenticeship in vehicle paint operations, to see what you can expect, and where it could take you afterwards.
Whether it’s a supermarket carpark “ding”, or something somewhat more substantial, it’s going to detract from the value of any car, and that’s why so many people take theirs to a body shop to get that blemish fixed – because in the long run, it’s an investment. As a rule of thumb, the better the bodywork, the higher the resale asking price.
And then, of course, there are people who want to keep their cherished vehicles in top condition, either just for the sake of it, or because they drive them to motor shows and exhibit them there.
So there’s a big market for the services of vehicle paint technicians, meaning that unless the nation’s driving skills suddenly improve beyond recognition, you’d be assured of a secure career if that’s where you think your future lies.
You’ll need good mechanical aptitude, because it’s not just about spraying paint – you could find yourself removing panels, repairing them and replacing them … or even doing a massive clean-up job on the inside.
And it goes without saying that you’ll need good colour vision, because even though most vehicles have some kind of code for the paintwork somewhere, there could be times you’re going to need to match a colour by eye.
But you’re not going to be able to walk in off the street and demand a job in your local bodyshop – you’ll need training first, and the best kind of training is definitely a vehicle paint technician apprenticeship.
What to expect during an apprenticeship in vehicle paint operations?
As an apprentice, you’ll be taken on as a very junior member of an existing team at work. This means that when there’s tea to be made, items to be fetched or put away or cleaning up to be done, chances are it’s you who’s going to be doing it.
That doesn’t mean you’re going to be doing all that grunt work all the way through your apprenticeship, but it’s the perfect opportunity to keep your eyes and ears open while you’re boiling kettles or whatever, and absorb as much as you can about how everything fits together.
You’ll realise, later on, that while you were fetching and carrying, making tea or cleaning the place up you’ll have taken much more on board than you’d thought at the time.
Right at the start, as well, you’ll also be given a good introduction to health and safety regulations and procedures, especially when it comes to using power tools and the painting process itself.
And then you’ll be moving on to using those power tools under supervision, and learning the best way to create the perfect paint finish.
You’ll also be learning more about the ins and outs of paint operations back in the classroom, where you’d be studying the theory behind what you’re practising in the workplace, as well as working towards a qualification like NVQ Level 2 in Vehicle Refinishing Operations.
Pay and prospects
As an apprentice, you’ll be earning while you’re learning. How much you’ll earn is entirely down to your employer, but legally you won’t be getting less than the UK apprenticeship minimum wage which is currently £2.65 an hour.
It’s been shown that the average apprenticeship wage stands at around £170/week, so many employers do choose to pay their apprentices more than the set legal minimum.
And as an apprentice, you’re entitled, legally, to the same employment rights and benefits as everyone else you’re working with. This would include sick pay and holiday pay, and perhaps other perks like a subsidised staff canteen.
Your apprenticeship isn’t just training for a career a year or two down the line – it’s also your chance to impress your current employer with your ability to learn and put that learning to good use, and your capacity for hard work.
That’s because more and more companies are seeing the wisdom in offering apprentices a more permanent position after they’ve finished their apprenticeship.
Much of that reasoning comes from the fact that it’s expensive – and can be risky – to recruit someone from outside, and also because apprentices and employers have had enough time to get to know each other.
And since you’ll have exactly the right kind of training and work experience your employer would be looking for in someone to replace you after you leave, as well as the right qualifications, it makes much more sense to invite you back once your apprenticeship is completed.
So it’s up to you to impress everyone around you from Day One … and it may just be that you end your apprenticeship on the Friday, and return as a permanent team member the following Monday.
If you’d like to find out more about Vehicle Paint Technician Apprenticeships, have a look at the apprenticeship vacancies we have on file for you.