On Monster, the giant national career website, more than 1,000 auto dealers, independent body shops, hot-rod shops and other businesses are running help wanted ads for body-shop technicians.
There's a nationwide shortage of skilled body repair technicians, painters and auto body prep experts that rivals the shortage of service department repair technicians.
To help offset the ongoing shortage of body-shop techs, the Collision Repair Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Hoffman Estates, Ill., is kicking off its second year of nationwide career fairs aimed at attracting high school and college students.
The fairs, staffed by new-car dealers, body-shop supply companies, independent body shops and suppliers, are scheduled for 14 major cities starting early next month. More fairs are scheduled for the fall.
In 2016, each event attracted roughly 200 students, said Brandon Eckenrode, the foundation's development director. At the one-day fairs, held at schools, training facilities, hotels and other locations, students have the opportunity to meet with potential employers, including body-shop managers, who explain the career path from school to work.
Many students, Eckenrode said, are surprised to learn how much they can make if they become experts at painting cars.
"I give students a pep talk when I meet them before they enter the fair and tell them there are people who paint cars that easily make over six figures. But that's not where you are going to start," Eckenrode said.
Like technician trainees who start out doing menial work such as oil changes and tire rotations, collision-repair students also begin their careers performing jobs that don't require specialized training, such as prep work that requires removing trim and broken parts and cleaning the outside of the vehicle to get it ready for body repairs. In these jobs, they learn how to use tools and how to follow proper procedures.
Although attendance at the fairs has been strong -- one held in November in Columbus, Ohio, drew nearly 400 students -- the foundation also works with schools in markets it doesn't serve.
"We reach out to schools and ask that they refer any student looking for full-time work. We gather their information and have them create a student resume, which we use to build a database. Then we distribute that to employers," Eckenrode said.
The foundation doesn't yet have firm data on the number of students who have found collision-repair jobs through the fairs, but Eckenrode says they are working.
"Part of the fun of my job is that I have met students at 10 a.m. who are unemployed and they walk out at 2 p.m. with several job offers because of the need that is out there."