Bethany Wigmore is a vehicle refinisher apprentice at Arnold Clark in Liverpool. She joined the company in 2018 after taking A-levels and exploring studying forensic science. She chose Arnold Clark after they helped her try out a new role and build her confidence, making her realise that the motor industry isn’t all male-dominated.
“To women and girls wanting to get into the automotive industry I’d say to have a look and see what stands out to you as there are so many different roles in this industry that you wouldn’t know about unless you went looking.”
I finished high school in 2015, I did well in school and enjoyed most of my classes. My best subjects were resistant materials, graphics and photography (for which I got 2 A*s and a B). I definitely preferred practical subjects. I then went to college for a few months studying psychology, biology, sociology and photography as I had wanted to be a forensic scientist but I then decided it wasn’t for me.
I tried a few different jobs like McDonald’s, a takeaway and nightclubs and then at 16 I did my first apprenticeship, which was in SEO (search engine optimisation). Part of it was interesting but I always wanted to do something more hands-on as I found I got bored just being at a computer typing all day.
I’d been interested in working with cars ever since I was 13. I remember asking my dad if could I do work experience in his friend’s garage when I got older. At the time I didn’t really know that the role I do now as a car refinisher was a job I could get into so I first looked at becoming a mechanic.
Finding encouragement and overcoming self-doubt
I applied for another company, and got through all the stages but when it got to the interview at the branch the interviewer told me he didn’t think I could handle the job. It put me down a bit, but I kept looking and saw an advert for careers at Arnold Clark, so I thought I’d try and see what happened.
I had done some research on the company before applying and whilst waiting to hear from them, and it seemed like a really good company. I think what helped a lot was the week’s trial as it gave me a chance to test the job and meet the people I would be working with.
I’ve worked at a few branches and all the body shop staff and managers have been really helpful and welcoming. I’m definitely glad I chose Arnold Clark to work for, particularly after my previous negative experience of applying to the other company.
Up to scratch
My day-to-day role includes the preparation of cars and painting them. So, this can mean filling dents, sanding out scratches and priming them. Then once they’re ready, I paint them and polish them afterwards. I do all my own jobs now but I’m still learning as we get new equipment and tools to help us with the job.
Each day at work can vary depending on the jobs that come in, some can be small, like bumper corners which are quick jobs, but we can get bigger ones like full sides of a car which need repairing and painting.
For me, I think the apprentice route is the best option to combine work and study. When I was in college I had a part time job, so between college five days a week and working, it was hard to find a balance with being able to socialise and have a break.
Being able to work whilst you learn means you’re able to do the job you want whilst getting a qualification, rather than having to spend months in a classroom waiting to actually experience the job itself. I also think earning whilst you work helps motivate you to do the job and learn as you want to progress and get your qualification.
Giving girls space and support to get comfortable in automotive
I didn’t come through the Arnold Clark’s Girls with Skills programme myself as it wasn’t in place when I joined, but I think it’s a great idea. It helps girls test out the job and see what works best for them so they can decide which area they feel more suited to without having to commit. It can be hard to go into a job in this industry without knowing what to expect, so this helps give them a chance to see what they’ll be doing and allow them to feel more comfortable in their role.
Advice to girls and women interested in automotive
To women and girls wanting to get into the automotive industry, I’d say to have a look and see what stands out to you as there are so many different roles in this industry that you wouldn’t know about unless you went looking. I do recommend going for an apprenticeship as it helped me a lot, as I didn’t know where to start and I never really knew much about cars — just that I wanted to work with them, so I went for it.
The idea of going into this job can be daunting as you’re expected to know about cars and like them, but I feel like it doesn’t matter, it should just be about enjoying your role and doing what you want to do.
On the road to success
I’m looking forward to finishing my apprenticeship in the next month, I’ve just finished my Level 3 qualification. I got set back a bit due to COVID and having a year off with having a baby. I’ve now managed to complete all my training and I’m excited to finally be qualified in my role. I’ve worked hard to complete it and it’s nice to know I’ve managed to do it even when I doubted myself.
This content is brought to you in paid partnership with Arnold Clark.