Future Leaders of the Industry

A journey toward excelling in autobody repair

Autobody Repair Award winner, Ali Rezaie, has overcome many challenges whilst creating a new life in Australia.

Autobody Repair Award winner, Ali Rezaie, has overcome many challenges whilst creating a new life in Australia, finding the passion to succeed as a body technician however, has not been one of them. 

From tailoring on the streets of Pakistan to abattoir work in regional Victoria, the path to career satisfaction can take many twists and turns. For Ali Rezaie, it is all about finding what you love and working hard at it.

The Kangan Institute’s Awards night shone a spotlight on the emerging talent in the automotive fields, with people from all different backgrounds celebrated for their achievements. 

Ali Rezaie, an Afghan immigrant, took out the Rising Star Apprentice Award for Autobody Repairs at the Kangan Institutes Awards night earlier this year. Rezaie is well versed in collecting awards, previously racking up the 2022 Capital S.M.A.R.T Victorian Apprentice of the Year Award, and a silver medal in the 2022 WorldSkills Regional Championships in Autobody Repair.

The automotive industry and panel beating wasn’t always on Rezaie’s radar. After arriving in Australia, he first settled in Swan Hill, a city in northwest Victoria and started working in a meat factory. 

It wasn’t until he moved closer to Melbourne that he was introduced by a friend to the world of panel beating and Capital S.M.A.R.T. 

“I like working with cars and I didn’t have much idea about it at first, but when I gave it a try at the workplace, I really enjoyed it and I felt that it was for me,” Rezaie says.

The allure of working on cars was a gradual process for Rezaie. Seeing the end result of his work and being part of the transformation was a key motivator.  

“It is very interesting in panel beating. Everything is different. When you get the car and when you finish the job it gives you satisfaction, like “I did this job!” Rezaie says.

The technical side of panel beating is evolving, and the skills needed to perform the role is a continuous learning process. A collaborative team environment also helps to navigate new technologies in the industry.

“Technology is changing, such as EV cars. Cars are also going from metal to aluminium. We are getting more technology involved in the car compared to before,” Rezaie says. 

“I think trying new things and gaining new skills is interesting. It’s exciting to try something new.”

“When we get the job and it’s new, we try to figure it out or get a second opinion from other panel beaters.’

“I learnt a lot from my teachers at Kangan Institute and my trainer and other panel beaters at work,” Rezaie says.

Rezaie has come a long way since he first day on the job. However, he can still recall his first day walking into a car mechanic shop.

“When I first walked into the workshop, I didn’t know much. I was introduced to the tools, how to use them,” Rezaie says. “My trainer on the job and manager were very helpful. They believed in me.” 

“Now I feel pretty good – I know how to work on the cars and fix them; it feels really good.”

Rezaie is of Afghani descent but was raised in Pakistan where he attended school. Before coming to Australia, he worked as a tailor. Becoming a panel beater has been a seismic shift from his previous life where he had little exposure to the world of the Pakistan automotive industry.

“The repair industry there I think is a little bit different. I do not have much idea about it because I started when I came here,” Rezaie says.

The move to Australia has meant overcoming many challenges, but it has also meant taking risks, which has led Rezaie to new opportunities. 

“My father and my mother were here in Australia, and I came to join my family. I worked in a meat factory for about two years and did different kinds of jobs there. Then, I was introduced by a friend to Capital S.M.A.R.T,” Rezaie says. 

“I find it good here. The main difficulty I had at first was learning how to drive – it took me a little while to get my license. When I first arrived, I lived in Swan Hill and there was less job opportunities; I couldn’t get many good jobs. After moving to Melbourne, I was able to get an apprenticeship,” Rezaie says. 

Rezaie studied at the Kangan Institute before becoming an apprentice in panel beating. He acknowledges the support that he received as a key factor for his growth.

“All the teachers were really helpful, like my teachers Sam and Paul at Kangan Institute. I’m always thankful to them. Whenever I need them, they’re always there for me,” Rezaie says.

“Sam was my mentor and he trained me and helped me a lot with the WorldSkills competition,” he says.

Over the course of his apprenticeship and working career, Rezaie has felt the effects of a community of people willing to support him.

“Some of my other role models are my current manager Qadir who introduced me to the company, and Tim who was my manager when I first started… he has really helped me a lot and I’m very thankful to him,” Rezaie says.

“I feel really good. I feel like I’m appreciated for what I was trying to do,” Rezaie says.

The future looks bright for Rezaie, as he continues to pursue his career in the repair industry.

“I’d like to keep getting more experience on the job in panel beating,” Rezaie says.

Being from a foreign country and learning English as a second language, Rezaie has faced many challenges. He is well equipped to deliver advice on the younger generation who are interested in a career in the automotive industry. 

“When I started on the job, I was not afraid of mistakes. I kept trying and if I did something wrong, I’d check with my trainers or other panel beaters,” Rezaie says.

“My advice to others is to have confidence. When you have the confidence to do the job, you will get it.”

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