When cars, vans and buses are damaged in accidents, it is the job of the motor vehicle panel, paint and MET (mechanical, electrical and trim) technician to put right the damage to the bodywork.
Some technicians do the entire repair job from start to finish. Others specialise in one part of the process, such as fitting panels, repairing dents and scratches or painting.
When a vehicle comes in for repair:
The MET technicians remove and replace all the mechanical, electrical and trim components. The vehicle body and paint is then repaired by the panel technician and paint technician. The vehicle is then passed back to the MET technician who puts back undamaged parts and any new ones that are required, such as the suspension or cooling system.
Damaged external panels are repaired or replaced and then bolted or welded back onto the vehicle. The damaged section is then prepared for painting and cleaning. The technicians cover the areas that are not to be painted, and apply several layers of paint to the section with a spray gun, before finishing with a coat of lacquer.
Panel, paint and MET technicians often work together in a team, and also work with mechanics, auto electricians, sales managers and the customers themselves.
They work with a range of equipment, depending on the specific activity they are doing. This equipment can be high-tech and complex, so it is important that they work carefully to protect themselves and their colleagues.
Technicians usually work from 8.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday. There are often opportunities for paid overtime in the evenings and at weekends. Shift and night work is often paid at a higher rate.
They usually work indoors in workshops, bodyshops or paint-spraying booths. Depending on the employer, these can be spacious and modern. They may get cold in the winter when doors are left open for access, but are usually warmer than mechanical workshops because of the need to dry paintwork.
Although spraying booths and workshops have to be well ventilated, they can still be dusty and smell of fumes.
The work can be physically demanding as they need to get to all parts of a vehicle. They may have to lie in or under vehicles.
Depending on their particular work, they may wear specialist protective clothing such as masks, goggles and gloves.
Trainees may earn between £7,000 and £13,000 a year.
Qualified technicians can earn £19,000 a year or more and senior technicians can earn up to £30,000.
There are more than 30 million vehicles on the UK's roads and there is generally a high demand for skilled, trained technicians.
There are jobs in:
Jobs are advertised in the local press, in Jobcentre Plus offices and increasingly on specialist recruitment websites. Large companies may also advertise for staff through their own websites.
There are several routes to qualifying as a motor vehicle panel/paint/MET technician:
Employment - finding a job with an employer offering a training scheme that involves training at specially equipped centres.
Apprenticeship - combining work with study, usually on a day-release basis, at a local college or training provider.
Full-time college course - with practical exercises as well as classroom work.
Most technicians start off on a training scheme or Apprenticeship in vehicle body and paint operations. Although no formal qualifications are needed, most employers prefer applicants who can demonstrate a good level of English and ability with numbers. GCSE's are needed in maths, English and a science to apply for an Apprenticeship. It is often easier to get a place with at least four GCSE's (A*-C) including English, maths and a science subject (physics is preferred).
The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) has a pre-apprenticeship programme for students aged 14 to 16. The scheme offers a fast-track way to progress onto a full Apprenticeship, with recognised Level 1 Technical Certificates within the Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships frameworks.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A number of full-time courses are recognised by the industry, including:
City & Guilds Certificates and Diplomas in motor vehicle body and paint operations at Levels 1, 2 and 3.
IMI Technical Certificates (VRQ's) at Levels 1, 2 and 3 in Vehicle Maintenance and Repair (Body Repair, Refinishing and Body Fitting).
Courses last between one and two years. As entry requirements are likely to vary, candidates are advised to check with individual institutions.
Apprentices are employed by a company but will have to attend college for their technical training. Many work towards an NVQ and Technical Certificates. Level 2 training can take up to two and a half years, whilst Level 3 takes an extra year.
Apprentices in the bus and coach industry can work towards Technical NVQ's in transport engineering and maintenance at Levels 2 and 3, body repair Levels 2 and 3 and vehicle body and paint operations Levels 2 and 3.
The IMI/Thatcham offer Automotive Technician Accreditation (ATA) registration for bodyshop technicians. This is a voluntary assessment programme for technicians working in the retail motor industry and involves completing a full day's practical assessment of a technician's skills plus an online test. It is held at the Thatcham training centre in Berkshire. There are three routes - fitter, panel and paint - and three levels - technician, senior technician and master technician.
It is important to keep in touch with the latest developments associated with relevant vehicles. Short courses or continuing professional development (CPD) events are available to ensure that skill levels remain up to date.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Motor vehicle panel/paint/MET technicians need to be:
Many technicians go on to specialise in a particular type or make of vehicle, or in a particular aspect of the work.
With experience, some may go on to work as supervisors or workshop controllers, and then as managers. This is more likely in a large organisation. In a small organisation they might have to move to a different company for promotion.
They can also go on to train new body repairers.
There may be opportunities to set up their own motor vehicle repair businesses or to work abroad.
Automotive Skills Ltd,
93 Newman Street, London W1T 3DT
Careers line: 0800 093 1777
Institute of the Motor Industry
Tel: 01992 511521
The Institute of the Motor Industry,
Fanshaws, Brickendon, Hertford SG13 8PQ
Tel: 01992 511 521
The Motor Insurance Repair
Research Centre (Thatcham), Colthrop Way,
Thatcham, Berkshire RG19 4NR
Tel: 01635 868855
Retail Motor Industry Training (REMIT) Ltd,
2nd Floor, Chestnut House,
32 North Street, Rugby CV21 2AH
Tel: 01788 576465
Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association,
Belmont House, Finkle Lane,
Gildersome, Leeds LS27 7TW
Tel: 0113 253 8333
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.