Auto Collision Experience Attracts Over 350 Students
Downingtown, PA – Future careers in the auto collision industry were accelerated as over 19 automotive collision industry businesses and organizations came together at the Technical College High School (TCHS) Brandywine Campus on May 8 for the fifth annual Auto Collision Experience (ACE). Students were able to network with potential employers and participate in demonstrations that highlighted some of the latest technology available in the industry. Over 400 students from 17 technical high schools throughout the region attended this free event to learn about various career pathways the industry has to offer.
Dave Purdy, Assistant Principal at TCHS Brandywine Campus, who has been involved with ACE since it started in 2015, believes that ACE helps students get a bigger picture of the industry. “There are so many career path options for students that I believe there is really something for each of them. From sales to marketing and beyond, this event allows them to see how they can fit and grow over time in the industry,” said Purdy.
One of the unique features of ACE is that it gives industry partners access to students with skills that are in high demand. Dean Benner, manager for 3D Auto Body and industry partner for ACE, notes that this event is unique in its ability to bring an entire industry together with educational partners to help students all across the region.
“I was involved last year and this year. It’s amazing how industry and education partners pull ACE off and how much that the ACE planning committee strives to provide for the kids, not for the publicity. TCHS works really hard to get students employed in the auto collision field. And, it’s not just Chester County students, it’s students in the whole greater Philadelphia area. ACE is pretty amazing,” said Benner.
The auto collision industry is rapidly growing and is projected to grow 9% over the next seven years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With such large growth projected, employers in the region rely on ACE to help find the next generation of auto collision employees.
Students who attended the event were given the opportunity to interview with industry partners and were then evaluated using a rubric. Students received their rubrics after the event to better gauge their interviewing skills.
This unique networking opportunity is something that Owen J. Roberts School District and TCHS Pickering Campus student William Gallagher, who is in the Automotive Service Technology program at TCHS Pickering Campus, felt made ACE a great event.
“This is my second time at this event and I have enjoyed that there are a lot of opportunities to network with people who have job openings. They’re giving us the opportunity to interview with them and that makes ACE fun. It’s a good way to meet people and open doors,” said Gallagher.
Students aren’t the only ones who enjoy ACE for its networking opportunities. Gary Liquori, a Sales Representative from Innovative Solutions & Technology and former technician, enjoys participating in ACE because he sees it as helping to give back to students who are just like he was when he was in school
“ACE is a great opportunity for the students and I’m glad to be here. I come from a vocational school originally. I’ve been in this industry for the last 17 years and I decided to step out of it and do some training, instead of just doing the actual job. I’m happy to help kids by networking with them and then training them to get them into this industry,” said Liquori.
Industry partners generously donated an estimated $10,000 worth of items to include in raffle baskets for the students, including: belt sanders, specialized tool kits, welding helmets, paint guns and other industry-specific gear.
“The reality is that kids are going to walk out of here with thousands of dollars’ worth of tools from our sponsors, because these are the tools you need to work in the trade,” said Purdy.
Industry partners also led demonstrations of the latest technologies in the industry. The demonstrations were designed to highlight the multitude of career paths available in the fast-growing and high-paying auto collision repair industry. From careers in graphic design and advertising to sales and customer service to repair work and management, there are many opportunities for success in this field.
Sponsors of ACE 2019 included: Chester County Technical College High School; Collision Repair Education Foundation; I-Car Education, Knowledge and Solutions; Chester County Intermediate Unit; 3D Auto Body and Collision Centers; 3M; ABRA | Caliber Collision; The Aureus Group; Billy Flannery Automotive; Bridgestone; Colours, Inc.; Enterprise Rent-A-Car; The Faulkner Organization; Innovative Solutions & Technology | Pro Spot | Spanesi; Kulp Car Rentals; LKQ Corporation; Nationwide; PPG; Service King Collision Repair; Sherwin-Williams, WD Services, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology and the Pennsylvania College of Technology.