In 1986 the average cost of a new car was $9,200, the controversial VL Commodore was powered by an imported Nissan 6-cylinder engine, and Crocodile Dundee hit the cinemas. Cars ran a little slower and were built a little heavier and for Daryn Foster, Manager of ACM Autobody in Mansfield this was his reality as a panel beating apprentice in Darwin.

31 years on, Daryn’s ties to the motor trades run deep and spread far and wide through the different automotive sectors. But despite this, he remembers his time as a panel beating apprentice with captivating clarity. With two of the apprentices from ACM Auto Body training at the MTA Institute (MTAI) it’s easy for Daryn to compare the differences in becoming qualified now to completing a trade in 1986.

“Things have changed a lot in the industry and the trade,” Daryn explains. “The way cars are manufactured and built is completely different to when I started my apprenticeship. Back then we repaired a lot more than we do now and we took care of things such as chrome bumper bars, upholstery and trimming, much of which is taken care of by a specialist today. Even the metal is different. We now look at the most economical way to fix a car, which means a lot of things are thrown away and replaced, something which was unheard of 30 odd years ago.”

But despite the differences there’s no denying that the core to completing an automotive apprenticeship and the skill set has essentially remained the same. And no matter how long or overwhelming an apprenticeship may seem, the end qualification is worth it.

“My advice to apprentices that may be feeling a little dismayed about their choice in trade or sector is to persevere. The opportunities when you finish are endless. Just because you start your trade as something certainly doesn’t mean you’ll end your time in the same position.”

And Daryn is a testament to the extent of open doors being trade-qualified can open. Working as a sales representative, paint technical consultant, quality control auditor, insurance assessor and owning his own shop doing custom restoration work is just the half of Daryn’s long and fascinating work history. Within a workshop itself, apprentices can step up through the ranks to a foreman, production manager, estimator and site manager.

Technological advances also mean that there will be opportunities five years down the track that don’t currently exist and the future opportunities for automotive apprentices are endless.

“Back when I started my time, probably the most technological thing on a car was an air intake sensor,” Daryn laughs. “Things have progressed and changed a lot and technology will continue to create opportunities for apprentices and those qualified in the automotive industry.”

To find out more about ACM Autobody call – 07 3420 0141

To find out more about MTA Institute Apprenticeships visit –