Panel beaters strip and refit the bodywork of vehicles when damaged by acts of vandalism or collisions. The moniker “panel beater” is used because labourers are often required to beat out dents on a vehicle’s bodywork. Panel beaters are usually employed in the United Kingdom, but also exist in New Zealand and Australia. In the United States, auto body mechanics fulfil similar roles. The average salary of a qualified panel beater in the U.K. is 19,000 to 22,000 British pounds (approximately £18,557 to £21,482 U.S.), according to My Job Search, a career and education advice website.
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The City and Guilds of London Institute is a U.K. accreditation group that provides training in vocational, managerial and engineering skills. It offers courses in vehicle body and paint operations; vehicle maintenance and repair; and body and paint maintenance. Each of these courses provide potential panel beaters with essentials skills in vehicle repair and restoration.
The Business and Technical Education Council (BTEC) also offer courses that provide vocational training in bodywork repairs. Candidates can undertake the National Certificate/Diploma in Vehicle Technology or the National Certificate/Diploma in Automotive Engineering. Candidates who complete any of these courses will hold nationally recognised skills that can be put to use in the panel beating trade.
Technical programs are mainly classroom based and provide little by way of practical experience. Panel beater candidates who want to learn their trade through on-the-job training should apply for an apprenticeship program.
Applicants typically require some GCSEs (General Certificates of Secondary Education) to gain admission to an apprenticeship scheme. Mathematics, science and subjects covering technology and engineering are particularly useful.
During apprenticeship training, a candidate works alongside an experienced panel technician who teaches skills such as panel repair and removal, refitting mechanical trim and restoring paint defects. Apprenticeship courses typically take two to three years and result in the award of an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) in vehicle body and paint operations.
The Motor Insurance Repair Research Center, also known as Thatcham, runs specific apprenticeship courses for crash repair mechanics. According to the My Job Search site, these programs are favour by employers as they focus on the most current techniques and repair techniques. The program is formulated by motor experts and results in nationally recognised qualifications.
Labourers who have extensive experience in the auto body repair trade but hold no qualifications may be eligible for the Automotive Technician Accreditation (ATA). The ATA is granted by the Institute of the Motor Industry and allows body repair technicians to complete a nine-day assessment to gain accreditation.
Apprentice panel beaters are not required to have experience. Candidates for senior panel beating roles usually require at least two years practice in the auto body trade. Some employers may also require qualifications in addition to experience. Candidates for specialist roles, involving the use of sensitive machinery, typically need five years of experience.
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