We caught up with Rachel Murray, a freelance paint technician and automotive ambassador. Rachel kindly shared her experience as a woman in the automotive industry, her hopes for the future and an overview of what she does on an average day.
Why did you choose to pursue an automotive career?
I originally wanted to be a mechanic and had applied for a course in Motorsport mechanics, however as luck would have it, I crashed my first car and when my car was in for repair at KRCR in Donaghadee, I was inspired by the work that they did and asked them if they would take me on for 1 day a week work experience.
It was here that I was thrown headfirst into bodywork and painting and realised that car painting was my true passion, so I changed my mind, turned down the Motorsport mechanics course, applied and was accepted to Riverpark Training to do Vehicle Refinishing.
Everyone thinks of a greasy and dirty job whenever they think about the trade, which is becoming a thing of the past.
Why aren’t there many women in the industry compared to men?
Genuinely, I think that a lot of women just aren’t aware of the opportunities in the industry. It’s just not really something that’s out there in the public eye as the exciting trade that it is. I also think the automotive industry doesn’t appeal to a lot of women as the work is physically challenging and that just doesn’t appeal to some people – not just women. However, when you look at the management and business side of the industry, the percentage of women appears to increase in those careers.
How do you feel this could be changed?
I certainly think one way that this could be changed is advertising the careers in the industry and making people aware of the opportunities available. The industry is in dire need of serious promotional input amongst the general public, particularly young people and their parents.
We really need to spend time focusing on showcasing all the incredible things our trade has to offer to anyone and everyone. We need to get into schools and really show off the industry for what it is and get the next generation excited and inspired.
Give us an overview of what you do on an average day?
I start every day with an iced decaf vanilla latte; recently, I’ve gone fully free-lance so every day is totally different for me now. If I’m in a bodyshop, I’ll begin my working morning having a chat with the owner/foreman and come up with a plan for the day. I’ll then try to structure my day in a way that is the most productive for both me and the bodyshop that I’m contracted out to that day.
Usually, my day will then be a frenzy of repair, prep, paint and polish. I usually try to bounce back and forth with individual jobs in order to have as little downtime as possible during the day which allows me to be the most productive and efficient that I can. Some days I can be out on construction sites or out painting PVC house windows for one of my contracts.
This is something that I’ve only recently started to gain knowledge on. As I’m still learning, I’m not as efficient or productive as I’d like to be, but I’m really enjoying this kind of work – it’s so different to painting cars yet I use similar skills to do so. I’m also an ambassador for School of Thought which involves me working to promote the automotive industry to school kids to help with the current skills shortage in the trade.
As I have come to love this industry so much, I feel like it’s only natural for me to give something back and help encourage, inspire and motivate our next generation of technicians coming into the jobs. Doing this is probably my favourite part; it’s super rewarding and I can’t wait to get into schools when they open again for the new school year and really start making a difference.
What has been a highlight of your career so far?
I’ve worked on a few challenging and interesting jobs including a Ferrari 250 GTO kit car, a Jaguar E-Type race car, a MKII Jaguar race car and an MG TC. But in July this year, I took on my partner’s Toyota GT86 to take it from a stock body Satin White (37J) to being rocket bunny kitted and finished in Atlantis Blue (399).
I’m not a metal worker by any stretch of the imagination and I certainly had next to no experience in stripping and fitting, but with a little help from my friend Aaron, cutting and welding the rear arches and Gavin who I worked with in Suitor Autofix with stripping and building it back up – we managed to complete it in 2 weeks over the July holidays.
It’s something I always planned to do but I just never had the space or time to do it, there were a few late nights and early mornings, but it was all worth it seeing the finished vehicle – definitely a showstopper!
What are your hopes for the future of the automotive industry?
I really hope to start to see the industry change for the better. I’d love for workers to become more motivated and happier in their working environment. I think to do this we really need to look at how we treat staff in the industry and improve not only the working environments and salary of staff in the trade.
Also loking at standardising the quality of work coming out of our bodyshops. This is something that I think will come naturally, once we better the working environment as employees will be more driven to produce quality work.
What would you like to have known before starting your career?
I’d love to have known about all the different careers and opportunities within the automotive industry as this was something that previously I was unaware of.
Automotive careers are underrepresented in schools and kids don’t think about it as a promising career opportunity – myself included. Everyone thinks of a greasy and dirty job whenever they think about the trade, which is becoming a thing of the past.
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