Matt didn’t have a clear idea of what he wanted to do as a career when he left school and was more creative than academic so he continued with his love of the visual arts and went to college for two years to study general art and design. “It was a mixture of all sorts of design from photoshop to technical drawing.” He was never interested in going to university and it was just briefly explained by tutors what apprenticeships were all about, because the main expectation was that students would in fact go on to higher education.
During college he worked at Halfords the vehicle sundries and mechanical repair and services chain. “I enjoyed working on cars so decided to combine this with my creative side and so, being able to paint cars was literally perfect.” He was fortunate in having the opportunity to do an apprenticeship in car painting and has progressed from there, getting more and more experience. For him it’s been a win-win experience of learning and being involved. “When you go for an apprenticeship, you’re hands-on, you’re in the workplace and as part of my apprenticeship once I’d qualified, I was guaranteed a job.”
Matt thinks that his grandad having had his own body shop has been an influence.
I guess it’s sort of in the genes and seeing all his old pictures made we want to go into the car painting business even a little bit more than I did already.
Matt thinks that apprenticeships are a prestigious career pathway. “No one has ever frowned on me for doing an apprenticeship and for example, my girlfriend is now looking into it because she knows how much it’s benefited me. My brother is at college at the minute and he doesn’t know what direction he wants to go in, so he’s trying to find an apprenticeship that appeals to him.” He adds, “As soon as I finished my apprenticeship my wage doubled. Once you’ve got that qualification, you’re worth more because a lot of painters might have experience but you also have the apprenticeship qualification.”
What he values most about his chosen profession is the variety, “I like the processes such as stripping the component down and making repairs, applying the paint, putting it all back together then out it goes. You’re working on such different things and jobs that it kind of keeps you interested.”
A typical work day starts 8am setting up my toolbox. Most of the time I’ll have jobs prepped and set up from the night before, then I can come in for the morning and get painting straight away, by ten past eight I’m already putting paint on. The day goes quickly when you’re painting and repairing, you get so stuck into it. Most of the time I’m working in the paint ‘booth’ so I can be in there and before you know it, three hours have gone.
The best thing that’s happened for Matt so far is having passed all his qualifications, which took steady progress and commitment to achieve he remembers, “We used to have tests at the end of each week around what we’d been studying and you’d know what your score was. Each week I’d really try to do my best and at the end I’d get really good scores. When I’d finally finished and all my certificates had come through to say I was qualified and got passes and distinctions I thought, yeah three years and it’s all paid off for me. Now I’m fully-skilled I can go out and do as well as anyone else.”
Matt’s had to show continued commitment and determination to reach his goals. “If you want to succeed in an apprenticeship or in this industry generally, you’ve got to be someone who keeps going and doesn’t give up because there are days that you think, “I can’t do this.” Or you mess it up by getting a huge great drip running down a panel, and you think uh-oh back to the start again. But you just have to keep going and be someone that just puts it behind you and focuses on the next day and the next job and just work like that.”
Matt’s up-beat about progressing in his career:
As long as you keep positive and throw yourself at any opportunity whether that be competition-based or another learning experience or other qualification, just do it. I’ve even got a welding qualification and I never thought I’d be doing that as part of a painting qualification, that was an extra course on the side that I’ve got that behind me.
Considering his long-term career in the industry Matt says, “Futurewise I’d like to push painting as far as I can, some people like to stay painting like the person I learned under, he’d been painting for 30-40 years because that’s what he loves doing so he’ll carry on. I’d like to push painting as much as I can and get as much experience as I can. Obviously, I’m still young into the industry and with the variety of work I still learn things every day. I could go in tomorrow and be painting something I’ve never ever done before. Eventually though, I’d like to move into different parts of the bodyshop like estimating, or go into management.”