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A Collision Repair Education Foundation career fair is shown. (Provided by CREF)

CREF: Fall auto body career fairs have discounted rates for smaller shops; new resume database available

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Announcements | Business Practices | Education | Market Trends

Facing a technician shortage at your auto body shop — as well as a cash flow shortage because of your shop’s small size?

Responding to both factors, the Collision Repair Education Foundation recently unveiled its fall schedule of career fairs, most of which will feature reduced vendor fees for smaller operations to participate.

The fall schedule starts Sept. 16 at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., the same day as the NASCAR American Ethanol E15 225 (and ahead of the unfortunately named Sprint Cup event Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 on Sept. 18).

That one will remain at the current minimum employer price of $2,500 a booth — it costs CREF $60,000 to run that high-profile event, but CREF director of development Brandon Eckenrode said shops in a tighter financial situation who can’t meet that amount can contact him for a break.

Future events in the Boston, Atlanta, Columbus and Minneapolis areas will all offer an entry-level $1,500 participation tier. Paying $5,000 will place the sponsor’s logo on the uniform-style shirt given student jobseekers.

Those job fairs will be held Oct. 5 at Assabet Technical College, Marlboro, Mass.; Oct. 20 at the Maxwell High School of Technology, Lawrenceville, Ga.; Nov. 16 at Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, Columbus, Ohio; and an undetermined time and place in the Minneapolis area.

A different pricing system exists for a Sept. 23 Saint Louis-area fair, held at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., during National Hot Rod Association AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals weekend.

Sponsorship for the I-CAR-managed fair starts at $500 (but the supporter only receives a name in the program, not a table) continues to a $1,000 level which offers a table and two race-day passes, and progresses steadily up to a $25,000 top tier which adds perks like weekend passes, logos on school uniforms for the fall semester and 5 minutes to speak to participants directly.

Even the $2,500 — or even the $25,000 — might be a bargain, even for a smaller shop. Eckenrode has estimated that each technician slot left unfilled can mean missing out on an additional $30,000-$50,000 in revenue a month. Major consolidators — some of which have hundreds of openings — have found themselves in “kind of almost panic mode,” Eckenrode said in April.

“We look forward to bringing these career fairs to additional markets in the fall and introducing these students to the local industry who are interested in their future. For many of these events we are working close with local industry associations and I-CAR volunteer committees to help communicate to the local industry contacts,” Eckenrode said in a statement May 24.

On top of the opportunity to battle for prospects live — some candidates were hired on-the-spot during a Seattle fair — participants will be allowed to access CREF’s database of job candidates.

Available at, the site includes resumes from local high school and college student classes who’ve sent students to such job fairs.


CREF in May announced it finished a pilot of the database, “which we plan on making even better next school year,” Eckenrode wrote in an email. The software is available now for use by job candidates and any employers which have supported CREF.

Right now, only high schoolers and college students can submit resumes, “as that is the group under our ‘umbrella of support’,” Eckenrode wrote. More than 200 had submitted information already, CREF said May 17.

“We are very pleased with our initial pilot of the collision student resume database and this will be an ongoing effort at the end of each school semester to gather the contact information for those students seeking industry employment,” Eckenrode said in a statement. “We will then be sharing this information with our donors as a thank you for the continued support as we work towards assisting collision school programs and their ability to graduate quality, productive, and efficient entry-level staff ready for employment.”

CREF plans to eventually track the number of candidates hired through the system.

collision repair Job

Playing around with the database Monday as both a hypothetical “student” and “employer,” it appears employers can post jobs and search resumes once verified. Students can submit resumes, but the database states it hasn’t yet allowed them to search and apply for jobs.

Though career fair-participating businesses will be granted access to the resumes, CREF will also invite other financial supporters to use the database, according to Eckenrode. So if you’ve donated to CREF, contact the nonprofit about using the site.

Details: Eckenrode, 847-463-5244 or For the St. Louis-area show, email and

More information:


Collision Repair Education Foundation, May 24, 2016


CREF, May 17, 2016


A Collision Repair Education Foundation job fair is shown. (Provided by CREF)

Screenshots of the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s Collision Repair Careers website. (Screenshot from