We don’t usually expect our Australian friends to be ahead in gender equality awareness but it appears they’ve beaten us to the punch in the collision repair industry. The industry website www.paintandpanel.com.au features a Women in Collision section that is currently featuring the annual awards. This initiative recognises collision repair industry women who are business owners, administrators, damage estimators, assessors and both collision repair technicians (panelbeaters) and paint refinishers (car painters). See more at http://www.paintandpanel.com.au/women-in-collision. We commend the initiative and the respect due to the small minority of women involved in the wider industry. Hopefully the NZ Collision Repair Association (CRA) will follow suit soon. Many women do work in the collision repair industry in NZ including apprentices and qualified technicians, and a few business owners. Women have traditionally dominated in operations and administration in collision repair too though are often ‘back office’ and far from the lime-light.
The collision repair sector is in a challenging economic cycle currently. Car accident claims and business levels have never been higher. The two main contributing factors are the significant increase in population and the explosion in the number of cars on our roads in recent years. This has combined with an acceleration in panel shop closures due to unsustainable low margins, and few new entries into the sector for the same reason. This has naturally led to reduced training of young people at trade entry level and suppressed wages across the industry resulting in a labour exodus. The recent increase in trade skilled immigrants is helping, and more women in the industry could also be the welcome boost the trade desperately needs.