Hoffman Estates, Ill. (March 7, 2023) –
“Working on cars is a lot of fun, but young people today rarely get the chance to experience how exciting an automotive career path can be because so many schools have closed their trade programs, so they never get that hands-on exposure that inspired many of us to fall in love with this trade,” shares Crystal Lawrance of KTL Restorations (Danville, VA), a founding partner of Operative Talent. “Few people from the next generation show enthusiasm for automotive careers because they have no idea what opportunities are available or what an amazing life it can provide. Operative Talent is the perfect way to educate the future generation about these opportunities and help the industry find quality talent.”
Announced at the end of 2021, Operative Talent began as a collaborative effort between KTL, the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) and BASF, but it has since grown to include over four dozen partners as automotive professionals join the initiative to provide students with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with a 1969 Camaro (named “Talent”) by participating in rebuilding the classic car…and hopefully, they’ll learn a little more about the different career paths available in this diverse industry during the process.
“We continually discuss the need for more technicians, estimators and other industry professionals, but instead of just thinking about it and talking about it, it’s time to DO something about it!” urges Brandon Eckenrode, managing director of CREF. “If we want to see change happen, we need the support of the entire industry…from donated parts to raffle ticket sales, there’s a way for everyone to get behind this effort – to support our industry’s future – and help make Operative Talent a success.”
A large problem that many collision businesses encounter when trying to recruit new talent relates to the public’s perception of auto body and automotive shops as a dirty, greasy place to work, but “those days are long gone,” Lawrance insists. “Various talents and skills are needed in today’s industry. We still have the hands-on skills needed in body techs and painters, but we also need estimators, accountants and a whole production team – and that’s just in the shop! Suppliers like BASF need chemists to create the paints that make these cars so beautiful, and there’s also a need for social media managers, industry journalists and a number of other roles.
“There are so many career options for someone who is passionate about cars, but we don’t do a very good job of educating students – or the general public – about those opportunities,” she continues. “Automotive professionals no longer fit in the same box, so we want to showcase the vast array of diverse opportunities that are now available by engaging these students and getting them experience in some of the different areas in this field, including sheet metal, fabrication, body work, body fitment, paint, electrical/wiring, mechanical assembly, detailing or marketing/videography.”
“Attracting new talent is important to our company and the entire collision repair industry,” agrees BASF’s Tina Nelles. “We’ve dedicated efforts to helping by offering internships, increasing scholarships and supporting schools, but the key piece that’s always neglected is outside perception of our industry…We need people talking about this industry in the right ways! By promoting the collision repair industry and the many different careers available through a public-facing media campaign, we can ensure that students, as well as their parents, teachers and school counselors, understand the variety of opportunities that exist within this industry.”
Students’ involvement with rebuilding “Talent” will help expose them to the industry, but that’s just the first step in Operative Talent. The raffle ticket sales for the Camaro will raise funds for a public service announcement campaign to help educate the general public about the multitude of opportunities available within the automotive industry. Anyone interested in helping to showcase the industry and its career opportunities – and also getting a chance to win the Camaro being custom-built by students at KTL Restorations – can purchase a raffle ticket at bit.ly/Talent-raffle.
Ultimately, the success of Operative Talent relies on the entire industry getting involved and championing the endeavor, according to Eckenrode. “This is a full industry effort, and each person in the industry can get involved to make Operative Talent the best it can be – by raising funds and donating your time and efforts, we can showcase this industry and ensure it has a bright future!”
Lawrance hopes that the Camaro is just the first of many and that Operative Talent will highlight the industry going forward on a broader scale. “We’re talking to different shops around the country, and so many people believe in this project…I hope to see it grow and expand to provide students with opportunities in different markets. How many kids can we attract if we welcome them into this industry in a fun way? How many share the same passion that we do but need help discovering it? This is just the beginning,” she promises.
Opportunities for students exist through the dozens of Operative Talent partners across the country. For a complete list of current partners, to purchase raffle tickets, apply as a student, donate parts or simply learn more about this unique endeavor, visit OperativeTalent.com.
The Collision Repair Education Foundation, founded in 1991, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting collision repair educational programs, schools, and students to create qualified, entry-level employees and connect them with an array of career opportunities. For information on how to donate to programs supported by the Education Foundation, visit us online at: www.CollisionEducationFoundation.org.
If you would like more information about this topic or any of CREF’s initiatives, please email email@example.com.