Artist Finds Her Way in the Automotive Industry

Bailey's passion for art has been a longstanding one, leading her to initially envisioning a career as an art teacher. However, her perspective shifted when she engaged in a project car and was inspired by her brother to explore opportunities in the automotive industry. Intrigued by the idea, she decided to embrace the challenge and give it a go.

Steve and Bailey

Still at school, Bailey joined the gateway programme and was offered a placement at Straight-N-Paint in Rangiora, completing one day a week in the workshop through MITO - Te Pūkenga’s StartUp® programme. StartUp® offers students the chance to earn micro-credentials in the automotive industry approved by NZQA, credits towards NCEA Levels 2 and 3 and an introduction to a workshop environment.

While Bailey was completing StartUp®, Managing Director at Straight-N-Paint, Steve, was impressed by her work ethic and decided to offer her an apprenticeship. “We actually didn’t have enough room for her, but she was doing so well, we decided that we didn’t want her going anywhere else! We made a position available for an apprentice here and offered her the job.”

Once locked into an apprenticeship, Bailey started her New Zealand Certificate in Automotive Refinishing (Level 3 and 4) through MITO - Te Pūkenga and hasn’t looked back.

“I love that it doesn’t feel like other jobs,” she says. “It’s a very delicate process and I like that aspect of it. It’s more of an artform than anything.”

Steve says that Bailey’s exceeding his expectations, and her positive attitude is a standout among apprentices he’s had in the past. “She’s doing great. She’s ahead of where we expected her to be. She’s taken to it quite quickly and can perform all the tasks really well.”

He explains that unlike other facets of the industry, automotive refinishing has a point of no return with jobs. “You can’t just keep going until you get it right. With refinishing, you reach a point where there’s no turning back and you must complete the job, regardless of whether something has gone wrong and how far along you are. There’s nothing you can do and because of that, there’s an emotional role in the refinishing business, getting past those mistakes.”

Bailey adds, “It took time to retrain my mind into treating my mistakes as more of a learning opportunity, inspiring me to be better, rather than letting them get the best of me. Once I understood that, my confidence bloomed, and I felt like I grew a lot more as a tradesperson. Now I have a much healthier view of my work."

It helps that Bailey has the right support and loves the workshop she’s in. “I feel so at home here. I couldn’t picture a better place to be honest.”

As she progresses in her career, it’s Bailey’s passion for art that’s influencing her career aspirations. “I want to fine-tune my finishing and colour-matching. That takes years to be good at. Eventually, I’d love to get more into the art side of it, like airbrushing and pinstriping.”

As a woman in a male-dominated industry, Bailey has a few wise words for other young women looking at joining the automotive industry. “My biggest piece of advice is to fully embrace that you’re a woman but never let that define you in the workplace. Your gender should never be seen in your work environment. There’s absolutely no discrimination at my job. I don’t feel any different from the boys.”

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