NEXT GEN PANEL BEATER

Central and North Burnett Times - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

PHOTO: JACK LAWRIE

NEXT GEN: Khiara Craig is ap­pren­tic­ing with her dad Tim at Monto Panel Beat­ers.

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