NEXT GEN PANEL BEATER
MONTO Panel Beaters’ future may be assured with the third generation gearing up to learn the tools of the trade.
Khiara Craig, 15, daughter of the current owner Tim Craig, began an apprenticeship at the shop in February and has become accustomed to the skills and duties involved.
Tim inherited the business from his dad, Ian Craig, who apprenticed as a panel beater around the time the family moved to Monto in 1974.
When Tim left school, he did an apprenticeship at the shed and took over the business when his father retired.
Now the story is set to repeat itself with Khiara, eldest of three daughters, out of school.
“I thought it was pretty cool because I liked manual arts at school, things like undoing bolts, and so I thought it would be interesting to give it a go,” she said.
Despite growing up around panel beaters, Khiara was new to most of the work when she started.
Most of her practice before starting the apprenticeship came from helping out with home renovations, where she learnt to use a variety of tools.
Since beginning, she has learned to take out car trims and windscreens, how to sandblast panels and weld.
As mechanical work is traditionally a male dominated field, Tim was unsure about whether the business would pass to his daughters when the time came for him to retire.
“I thought maybe I’d have to sell the business because there’s not a lot of employment in Monto, so we were asking the girls what they wanted and they said they’d rather we kept the panel shop,” he said.
Fortunately, Khiara’s family and people in town have been very open to the idea of her getting involved with the shop.
“Initially Dad thought I should learn the spray painting instead of panel beating, but instead I’m learning both,” she said.
“I think people will be a bit surprised I’m doing it, but a lot of them have also said they know people who have got girl panel beaters and spray painters starting apprenticeships.”
Khiara said the main challenge had been dealing with jobs that require high strength, but there were ways around that.
Tim said working smarter, with tools to compensate for her smaller build, would help a great deal.
Khiara has also been tinkering away at a long-term project, working on a rare Ford Falcon XB coupe.
“I’ve stripped the inside out of it so far, and we’ll take the glass out, sandblast the panels and slowly do it back up again,” she said.
She’s also training in administration, aiming to one day take over the business.
NEXT GEN: Khiara Craig is apprenticing with her dad Tim at Monto Panel Beaters.