ILC ARTICLE

New Generation Interview: Lauren Wheatley, Apprentice Panel Beater, Activate Repair Warrington


In 2023 Lauren was a finalist in the Apprentice of the Year category at the Bodyshop Excellence Awards. Here, we ask her why she joined the industry and how she’d like to see it evolve in the coming years.

Tell us about your role. What do you do, and what do you find most interesting about it?

I am an apprentice panel beater at Activate Accident Repair. This means I repair and replace damaged panels after a vehicle has been in a bump or crash. What I find most interesting is seeing the before and after of a job, it’s really rewarding to see the end result knowing all the work that has gone into getting it to look like new again.

What made you want to work in this industry?

I have always preferred working hands-on, being on the go and busy. I also find it challenging and rewarding to be able to fix things myself, so being able to learn panel beating suited me well, as well as being a good skill to have.  

What does job satisfaction look like to you?

Job satisfaction to me is being busy and having variety in my work so that every day isn’t the same. I get a lot of that in this job because every crash is different and there are so many different vehicles to work on with ever-changing technology, so each day can always bring something new.

What do you see as the biggest challenge to your industry in the next year?

I think one of the main challenges the industry is facing now is getting parts, a lot of parts now take weeks to arrive, and some parts go on to back order which can mean waiting months. This has a knock-on effect on the overall customer experience, repair times, vehicle storage and hire costs.

How would you like to see the industry improved next one to five years?

It would be nice to see an improvement in parts wait times. I also really enjoy trying new equipment, which gives new ways to repair that can be quicker and more effective, so I’m excited to see what innovations will come in the future.

If you could give your 16-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

When leaving school, I was told that going to college and then university was the only way to be successful, which didn’t feel like a viable option for me as I have never learned well from sitting in a classroom.  I would tell myself that apprenticeships are a really good option because you get paid whilst you learn as well as gaining valuable workplace experience.

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