This article first appeared on People and Parts. You can view the original article here.
Planned as annual event, some students hired on the spot.
Automotive and collision repair students in the St. Louis area pondering their postgraduate employment were recently shown just how much their skills are needed. The St. Louis I-CAR Committee held its first career fair, the “Cars, Careers, & Celebrities Expo,” which it plans to be an annual event, April 28 at Enterprise Holdings’ global headquarters.
More than 260 students – from Lewis and Clark Career Center, North Tech High School, South Tech High School, and Ranken Technical College – brought their resumes to the eight-hour event, where they could talk with recruiters from more than 30 companies, some of whom offered them jobs on the spot. A variety of segments in the automotive aftermarket was represented, including equipment, paint, and paintless dent repair.
“Today has been incredible,” said Kurt Barks, CEO of Complete Auto Body. “I believe we have four solid applicants that we can use who will take our job offers.”
Barks said his business, which also includes mechanical repair, will be able to hire two for each discipline. The event will allow his business to hire students while in high school, he said, allowing them to work at a higher level and pay rate after graduating because they will more quickly gain experience, seniority and obtain their Motor Vehicle Inspection license, he said.
Committee member Gene Slattery, CEO of Automotive Technology Inc., said that unique among the career fairs being held in the country by I-CAR’s Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF), the St. Louis committee sought the participation of mechanical students, who made up about half of those in attendance, because there is also demand for them in a collision repair shop.
Brandon Eckenrode, director of development for CREF, said the foundation held 10 similar career fairs in the country. But compared to CREF-organized fairs, the St. Louis committee was able to attract more than twice as many vendors and about 30 percent more students, he said.
“This local group was able to reach out to people they know and do business with,” he said. “So we’re trying to mimic what they’ve done here.”
Ken Neuman, Auto Body instructor at South Technical High School, said his students are coached through the guidance counselor’s office toward the end of the school year on how to participate in a job interview, but the career fair allowed them to put those skills to the test.
Recruiters were not disappointed.
“I go to a lot of job fairs, and these are probably the most disciplined students I’ve seen,” said Dan Lovekamp, director of training at the Auffenberg Dealer Group, who was at the fair with Recruiter Beth Schumacher. “They’re polite, they ask good questions, and they’re engaged.”
Lovekamp said he was impressed by the students’ respectful and professional introductions and their genuine interest shown.
“They say, ‘This is the kind of job I’m looking for. Do you have that to offer?’ They’re right on target. And they thank us for being here. And that doesn’t happen.”
In addition to door prizes awarded throughout the day, lunch, and refreshments were provided by Enterprise, which recognizes how critical the nationwide staffing shortage is to it and its business partners.
“The insurance replacement industry is a critical part of our business mix,” said Dan Friedman, Enterprise’s assistant vice president of the Collision Industry/Strategic Sales Insurance Replacement Division. “Being able to find enough skilled technicians to work in shops is arguably the most critical issue facing the industry. We do everything we can to support efforts and initiatives to address that concern.”
The inaugural event led up to the committee’s main event, the Sept. 23 Gateway Automotive and Collision Career Fair, held at Gateway Motorsport Park in Madison, Ill., from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. That will coincide with qualifying for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, and is expected to draw more recruiters and students from a wider geographic area. The committee is picking up the tab for students and instructors to participate in the day’s activities, Slattery said.
“We’re looking for 50 vendors at that program, and we’re going to be in a 1,500-person tent right on the starting line of the drag strip,” he said.
For a sponsor information packet, contact committee members Keith Hoeferlin, at Keith.J.Hoeferlin@ehi.com, or Kevin Haller, at firstname.lastname@example.org.