What they do
Vehicle body builders manufacture purpose built vehicles from engineering plans. They manufacture purpose-built bodies for buses, coaches, horse floats, ambulances, firetrucks and other vehicles. They construct complex frameworks which are then welded, glued and bolted to the vehicle's chassis. These specialist panels are shaped from materials such as metal, aluminium and reinforced plastic using equipment such as a guillotine. Once the vehicle's framework is completed they fit axles, suspension, brakes, handles, locks, hinges, hydraulics and pneumatic systems.
Vehicle body builders work in factories or workshops which can at times be busy and noisy. They tend to spend the majority of their day on their feet working around vehicles. These workers are often required to alter assembly line vehicles to meet specific requirements, such as converting standard sedans into the high performance pursuit cars used by the Western Australian Traffic Police.
Tools and technologies
Vehicle body builders work with an array of workshop tools including welding, cutting and shaping machinery. At times they may also use mechanised equipment such as hoists to aid them with tasks. When operating such machinery vehicle body builders are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) for their own safety.
How do I become one?
Education and training
To become a vehicle body builder you usually need to undertake a vehicle body builder or panel beating apprenticeship. The apprenticeships usually take 42 to 48 months to complete and are available as a school-based apprenticeships.
Alternatively, the Certificate III in Automotive Manufacturing Technical Operations – Bus, Truck, Trailer is offered at TAFE colleges throughout Western Australia.
You may improve your prospects of gaining an apprenticeship by undertaking a pre-apprenticeship qualification. The Certificate II in Automotive Body Repair Technology (Panel Beating Painting Pre-Apprenticeship) and the Certificate II in Automotive Manufacturing Technical Production – Bus, Truck, Trailer (Vehicle Body Building Pre-Apprenticeship) are available at TAFE colleges throughout Western Australia.
You can also undertake an automotive vehicle body (level 2) traineeship to gain the pre-apprenticeship qualification. The traineeship usually takes 12 months to complete and is available as a school-based apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships and traineeships
As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.
You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.
If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.
Required registration and licensing
To work as a vehicle body builder in Western Australia, you will need to obtain a Motor Vehicle Repairer's Certificate from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety or work under the supervision of someone who holds a current certificate. An Australian Police Certificate is required to gain a Motor Vehicle Repairer's Certificate.