Part of the expansion plans also includes holding career fairs in different venues, such as the Denver Auto Show, which was held in March. Through the partnership with the Colorado Auto Dealers Association, CREF had the opportunity to talk to parents and students who otherwise might not have been familiar with the industry and then showcase the different career paths available.
Eckenrode advises shop owners and managers unsure about how to hire graduating students to find out about their local school programs if they haven’t already done so. For those in the industry who have hired technical students in the past and felt they weren’t prepared, he encourages potential employers to be persistent and work through the issues to help improve the programs. By putting in the time and showing their support, he said students will likely be more qualified when they graduate and better prepared for the future.
“It’s a matter of getting these businesses in front of instructors and schools and involved in advisory boards as well as getting in front of the administrations,” he said. “What we’ve heard, time and time again, is that if the administration sees companies interested in hiring these students, there’s a better chance that they will want to keep these programs running.”
In addition to attending a career fair, especially if one is not yet available in the area of the country where a body shop is located, Eckenrode said there are several ways to get involved and make a difference. For example, some collision repair facilities have sponsored new uniforms for students while many others have donated supplies, tools and equipment.
“There are things [body shops] can do, working together with us, where they can help encourage students,” he said. “We’re all in this together, so having a collective force at the local level is where we think we are going to make the biggest impact.”