As a child Elizabeth Kemp, better known as ‘Betsy’, loved nothing more than watching her two heroes restore old cars: the first was her father and the second Chip Foose from the tv show ‘Overhaulin’. Despite attempting to rebuild her first engine with help of her father at ten years old, it took Betsy a few false starts to find her way into a career in the automotive industry. Now working as a Technical Services Representative (TSR) for BASF, we spoke to Betsy about her career journey and meeting her automotive idol Chip Foose three times.
Betsy always had a passion for cars and colours. After finishing secondary school, she dreamed of working in the automotive industry but due to a lack of automotive female role models or clear pathways in the industry she instead decided to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree to become a high school art teacher. “I was actually too afraid to be a spray painter because it was such a male dominated industry,” said Betsy, “that’s why I didn’t start my career as a spray painter as soon as I should have.”
After life threw her some personal hurdles which made her relook her trajectory, Betsy decided that life was too short to not follow your passions and decided to pursue her dream. Like many female spray painters, Betsy found it difficult to find a body shop that would give her a chance but didn’t give up and spent two years, whilst working for a car part delivery company, trying to source an apprenticeship. “Whenever I delivered a car part I also handed out my resume, telling them that I was looking to be an apprentice and I wanted to learn spray painting,” she remembers. After two years and many doors shut in front of her, one body shop finally gave Betsy a chance and she started her spray painting apprenticeship at 22.
Betsy was first introduced to BASF when she started visiting the company’s Refinish Competence Centre in Sydney for practical training as part of the Glasurit EDUCATE program, a partnership between BASF and her TAFE. It was during this program that Betsy met James Green, who became a mentor and a friend. “I always wanted to work for BASF”, Betsy says, “when I first came here for training, I felt really welcome and comfortable from the beginning”. James recognised Betsy’s commitment to her trade and helped her find work in a Glasurit panel shop. Betsy thrived on the tools and managed to complete her apprenticeship in two years instead of four, along the way winning awards for ‘Female Technician of the Year’ and ‘Apprentice of the Year’.
After becoming fully qualified, Betsy and James stayed in touch and she emailed BASF’s HR team every six months looking for a job. In early 2020 the right opportunity came up and HR immediately offered Betsy the job. While Betsy says her path has not been easy to get to where she is today, both personally and professionally, she has become a stronger person because of her struggles and has found support from fellow female spray painters, both those she’s met personally and those she’s connected with online in spray painting groups, to be invaluable.
In her current role as a Technical Services Representative based at BASF’s Wetherill Park facility, Betsy assists customers with product and application questions, updates key systems and programs and assists with color matching. Outside of work, Betsy spends her free time refurbishing a 1979 Holden HZ one tonner for her wedding in September.
Betsy’s long term goal is to one day become a female spray painting teacher so she can mentor other young people. “When I was training I didn’t have any female trainers and I didn’t have any females in class in my first year, I was always outnumbered. I never had a problem with it because I get along with males, but I think the mentality towards women in this industry has to change,” Betsy said. “I want to be a trainer, because it is one way to change the mentality and the opinion in the industry”.
We welcome Betsy to the BASF team and wish her all the best in reaching all her goals.