Presnell Bodyworks at Invermay relies on apprentices to combat a skills shortage in the automotive industry

ON THE JOB: Presnell Bodyworks apprentices Shane Quinn, Jeb Olding, Koby Myers, Scott Quinn and admin trainee Madison Woodberry. Picture: Neil Richardson
ON THE JOB: Presnell Bodyworks apprentices Shane Quinn, Jeb Olding, Koby Myers, Scott Quinn and admin trainee Madison Woodberry. Picture: Neil Richardson

Launceston bodyworks business Presnell Bodyworks is combating a skills shortage in the automotive industry by employing apprentices.

The Invermay family business has four apprentices and one trainee on staff and has employed about 40 apprentices since it opened in 1981.

Data released by the Productivity Commission released this week showed apprentice numbers have been steadily dropping in the past five years, although Tasmania’s results have not been as steep a decline.

Other states such as Victoria and South Australia have experienced the biggest decline in apprentice numbers, revealed in the PC report into Government Services in Australia.

Presnell Bodyworks receives state government subsidies for employing young and adult apprentices. 

The majority of the staff that work through received their qualifications through the business.

”We need kids who are interested about cars. When we can see the growth and development in skills and training that’s one of the biggest things for me,” owner Lynn Presnell said.

Mrs Presnell said one of the most rewarding things about employing apprentices was how some of the students embraced working when they may not have traditionally been interested in formal education.

Manager Kate Presnell said trainees and apprentices offered the business an opportunity to have an engaged workforce.

“There is a skill shortage in this industry, we find often those who are already qualified are of a poorer quality; when you get apprentices you can train them they way you would like,” she said.

She said having a good team environment was important to the philosophy of Presnell Bodyworks and that environment could be fostered through apprentices.

The skills needed to be a panel beater and spray painter has increased in the past five years due to the increased technology in cars.

Miss Presnell said apprentices were trained to be more like engineers, rather than the old idea of a panel beater who beat car panels with a hammer.

“There is just so much technology in cars these days, they say that the advancements are the same as in the aero-industry. If they are doing things in planes, you will see it in cars a day later,” she said.

The costs in upskilling an apprentice to this level was high but Miss Presnell said it was worth it for the quality of employees that came out the other end.

Presnell Bodyworks started in the back of the Presnell’s garage in 1981 and eventually built a shopfront in Invermay.