CREF Still Accepting Entries for September’s Mentor-Mentee Challenge

Printed in Autobody News

The Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) is seeking additional teams to compete in its inaugural Top Tech Mentor/Mentee Competition being held on Saturday, Sept. 28 at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis.

Currently, the competition consists of teams from large national MSOs, including CaliberGerber and Service King, but CREF “hopes to really diversify that,” says Christen Battaglia, director of strategic partnerships for CREF.

“The only requirements are that the mentee has to be at least 18 years old and has to be currently enrolled in a technical program or have attended one within the past two years,” Battaglia adds.

Shelly Jones of Performance Sales Solutions is heading up the event’s volunteer committee, and she shares, “I’m really excited about this competition as it spotlights how important a mentor role is in the collision shop. We are expecting a full day of activities from morning registration to evening awards banquet.”

Companies with mentoring programs can enter their mentor/mentee team to compete against other shops’ teams on competencies necessary for an entry-level tech. CREF hopes to have ten to 15 teams competing at four testing stations. CREF’s goals for the event are to improve employee retention, develop the next generation of mentors, encourage more mentoring within the industry and recognize mentors.

The list of competencies for the competition, comprised based on industry standards, calls for the mentee to be proficient in the following:

  • Moving and staging vehicles,
  • Shop organization and clean up,
  • Safety and how to use personal equipment,
  • Placement of keys/work orders during repairs,
  • Damage analysis,
  • Supplement writing, ability to read and understand the manufacturer’s guidelines (AllData),
  • Disassembly and reassembly, part/hardware organization,
  • Nut, bolt and clip recognition,
  • Ability to inspect work and QC,
  • Checking lights, sensors and functions,
  • Final vehicle checks,
  • How to identify and remedy wind, water and air leaks,
  • Electrical testing of circuits and wiring repair,
  • Corrosion protection,
  • Removing spot welds,
  • Draining radiators and discharging ac systems; Vacuum filling radiators and charging ac systems,
  • Set up and measure on frame rack and floor pull set up,
  • Tram measuring and reading/following manufacturers measurement specifications,
  • Repairing bumpers,
  • Sheet metal adjustment and fit,
  • Small dings and dents,
  • Medium-sized metal and filler work, metal shrinking,
  • Weld-on panel mapping, removal and preparation,
  • Resistance welding,
  • Plastic welding,
  • Plastic repair with epoxy,
  • Introduction to mocking up and fitting weld on outer panels,
  • Demonstrate the ability to replace bedsides and door skins from start to finish (resistance welding only), and
  • Basic knowledge of outer weld on panel joints.

Teams can register to compete for $200 per team. Each member of the first-place team will win $2,500. Second place awards a $1,000 prize, and the third-place team will receive $500 for each competitor.

Sponsorship opportunities begin at $2500 and range up to the $25,000 founding sponsor level. Current sponsors include Axalta, Gerber, Saint Gobain and Chief Automotive.

“Each year, the collision industry faces a critical shortage in the number of new technicians entering the industry. Worse, many repair facilities have been challenged by delivering effective mentoring programs for these new technicians to grow their abilities and prosper in the industry,” Battaglia states. “As a result, too many new technicians leave the industry after just a few years, exacerbating the shortage. This new competition is designed to recognize the accomplishments of successful mentors and technicians, and also highlight how it is a strategy for employee retention.”

The shortage of technicians is an increasing concern for the collision repair industry. According to the TechForce Foundation’s Technician Demand Report of October 2017, there is an annual shortage of over 11,000 collision repair techs and more than 37,000 automotive service techs based on annual demand and the number of post-secondary graduates in 2016; however, those stats assume that all graduates enter the industry which is inaccurate.

CREF reports that 42 percent of students who enter the automotive industry switch to another industry within two years, but the organization also points out that entry-level techs are 77 percent are more likely to continue their automotive repair career if they receive mentoring, according to a Spherion Emerging Workforce Study. In the past, CREF has also reported that shops can earn an additional $30,000 to $50,000 per month in revenue by filling a technician position.