On 16 February 2022, we welcomed the Minister for Employment and Small Business the Honourable Di Farmer MP and Member for Mackay Julianne Gilbert to the workshop for a special announcement: McCarthy Panel Works has been awarded a $50,000 Business Growth Fund Grant from the Queensland Government. With this funding, we at McCarthy Panel Works will be able to expedite our plans of becoming industry leaders in the next evolution of vehicle repair.
We will be opening a specialised centre for electric and hybrid vehicle repairs. This includes purchasing tailor-made equipment such as a Car-O-Liner machine and aluminium Evo kits.
We were so passionate about bringing this to our region. So, we are already well underway with this project.
We are also excited to announce that we have been approved as the only Tesla Repair Centre in the Mackay region. We have already sent some of our team members away for the training for this.
The Honourable Ms Farmer said that this grant was a testament to our vision and mission to keep McCarthy Panel Works at the forefront of new technology. “These $50,000 grants are awarded to businesses to give them the ability and the confidence to upscale, to boost their productivity and to grow their workforce. We know that with this money Andrea and Craig are going to use it to create an extra workspace and to buy specialised equipment to work on electric and hybrid vehicles. We know that this area of motor trades is absolutely exploding and you simply must have the separate and specialised equipment. This is just the sort of thing that these grants are aimed at producing.”
Apprentice Liam Watts talking with the Honourable Di Farmer and Julianne Gilbert
Getting to know the other McCarthy Panel Works apprentices. Images: Kieron Place
A Boost for the Mackay Region
“People are, unfortunately, always going to have accidents,” says Ms Farmer. “So, having the means of this sort of business in Mackay means that you will be equipped to deal with what is coming. This is part of the ongoing support for small businesses that the Palaszczuk Government has provided. It has provided $2.5billion in support to small businesses and it is great to see exactly how that is going to help small businesses like Andrea’s and Craig’s.”
Ms Gilbert reiterated, “This is fantastic for Mackay. It means that if you are looking at buying a new car or a hybrid vehicle, you can buy it with confidence knowing that you can charge it here and that you can have it repaired right here, in Mackay.
“This is a very modern repair workshop. It is just really exciting to see that they have been able to diversify their staff. They have been able to employ young women and young men and have them working alongside each other in different parts of their business, showing that it is truly an integrated business into our community. It is a modern business looking after our vehicles of the future.”
Ms Gilbert believes that this grant will be a much-needed boost for the Mackay Region. “When McCarthy Panel Works opened up 51 years ago, they would have had their Kingswoods and their Chargers and all those other cars rolling in here. My first car was a Pulsar hatchback. It is very different to the one I have now which has all the bells and whistles. I expect that the next car which I buy will be an electric car. So, it is wonderful that here in Mackay, I will be able to take my car, if I ever needed to, for repair with McCarthy Panel Works, right here in our home town.
The new aluminium EVO tools and shed at Mackay’s new electric and hybrid repair centre at McCarthy Panel Works. Image: Kieron Place
Why do we need a Specialised Centre for Electric and Hybrid Vehicles?
Aluminium and steel metals don’t mix. When you sand a panel with aluminium, if you use the same componentry and there is any ingress into the steel, it will create a corrosion-type effect. So, ultimately, for risk management and for the purpose of creating a safer repair for all the vehicles, we thought it would be better to have that separated.
Traditional steel repair will still be done in our original workshop at 3 O’Loughlin Street, North Mackay. And all the equipment and tools that is going to be utilised from the funding (and obviously we have contributed a bit as well) will be kept in a different facility across the road at 4 O’Loughlin Street, where it will be used exclusively for the electric and hybrid vehicles. That whole facility will now be known as our dedicated electric and hybrid repair centre.
Our Commitment to Innovation and Training
A new vehicle repair centre and new equipment mean opportunities for new employment and more training.
At McCarthy Panel Works are proud of our commitment to training. Over our 51 year history that we have had, 30 apprentices come through our workshop and of those we have had a 75% success rate – that is those 75% of our apprentices have gone on to finish those trades. And, we are proud to say that 4 of those tradesmen are still employed, including our owner, Craig. We also have 4 apprentices on staff right now, who are currently undergoing training.
It is very important to us to try to maintain our culture of learning, to understand where the next vehicles are going. That is the future that we are focusing on with these new innovations.
The fact is, electric vehicle repair can be very dangerous. At the end of the day, you have to know how to disconnect the battery, how to make sure, when you go to work on that car, you are not going to be the person that gets zapped. So, you have to make sure of things like knowing you have no metal on you, so you don’t want to have a transference of current and that sort of thing. Our workers absolutely need to know what they are looking at. We won’t be allowing them to touch these vehicles if they have no idea how to dismantle that vehicle and how to turn it off safely.
Finding trade skilled people is still very difficult. We have a really great crew and we will fight tooth and nail to keep them. But at the end of the day, the collision repair industry is still in a skills shortage. We see it every day when industry experts come to us and ask how can we get this done, asking how we can get more kids into the industry. There is a great initiative called Auto Women who have realised that you can’t be what you can’t see. This is why Andrea has always been heavily involved in the industry: to try and show that commitment to innovation and training and to hopefully pave the way for more women to join the industry.
Ms Gilbert and MP Farmer took time to sign McCarthy Panel Works’ 50yrs commemorative bonnet. Image: Kieron Place
Is There a Demand for a Centre Like this in the Mackay Region?
As a Board Member of the Panel and Paint division of the Motor Trades Association of Queensland (MTAQ), Andrea knows the number of electric vehicles that are being sold. We also look at the reason why we are looking for lighter metal steel (to increase the battery life of those vehicles). Obviously, it is a common issue that people have because they are thinking. ‘Am I going to be able to take that vehicle and drive 4 hours up the cost’?
And now the Government has the initiative for the Electric Super Highway and this ties in with those concerns. With those metals and this type of equipment, we are now going to be able to service this area. We know that Tesla is the fastest growing electrical vehicle. We know that all the manufacturers are mandated that they have to create their own electric vehicle runs. So we know this is coming. The question then becomes, ‘How prepared can we be’? Are we there? We are well on our way.