22-year-old spray painting apprentice Lauren Neill of David Hand Smash has been an apprentice spray painter at David Hand Smash in Canberra for four years. Neil comes from a small town in regional New South Wales with a population of just 2,000 people. Since joining the team at David Hand, Neill has established herself as a jack of all trades, juggling work on the floor with administrative duties and quoting.
Her advice for women wanting to break into the industry?
“Just give it a go.“
Neill believes that in her area of expertise, there are opportunities for women to thrive as spray painters.
“They play a major role in the industry. We have an eye for detail - boys do too - but I guess we're perfectionists and we want things to be spot on.“
Neill starts her day at 7am, setting up the workshop and working alongside the team at David Hand, who nominated her for the award as an asset to the business.
“Lauren is a rare employee because she is so versatile in her abilities.
“Not only does she paint cars to an extremely high quality standard but she is also able to step into other roles such as quoting, administration and reception, which are normally performed by three seperate people.
“She contributes to the business because she can slip into any role freeing up our time as directors to concentrate on business strategy.
“She has a good rapport with customers making her a great face for the business, and her work ethic sets a high benchmark and is therefore a great motivator for the rest of our employees.
“This overall creates a great working atmosphere with a high performing and energised team.“
Although still a male dominated environment, Neill believes that the number of women opting for a career in smash repair is rising and that there is a lot of positive support from men.
Neill is a member of the popular Facebook group Spray Painters Australia where she is able to connect with other females in the industry right across the country and also share her work with the community at large, receiving positive encouragement from men and women alike.
She says that there are some misconceptions about where women fit in the industry and what it takes to pave a successful career path as a spray painter.
“I think a lot of girls steer away because it's a male dominated industry.
“They think you need a lot of muscle and everything and even though that helps sometimes, there's definitely more to it.“
Looking to the future, Neill hopes that in the next five years, we'll see a greater number of women on shop floors in Australia.
“I hope a lot more girls will be working in the industry. It'd be nice to see people supporting girls a bit more.“
The team at David Hand also believe there's room in the industry for female talent and have big plans to further cement Neill's role in the business – beyond being a talented young spray painter.
“Lauren is still undertaking her apprenticeship, but she has had on the job training and is now fully competent in quoting.
“This has greatly improved her knowledge and skills in the industry because she has an excellent understanding of how the smash repair process works in all facets of the business such as dealing with customers and insurance companies, panel beating, parts and administration - not just spray painting.“