SEMA News—September 2015


Connecting With a Generation on the Rise

Chris KerstingIn the specialty automotive industry, we can point to hundreds of successful businesses that were built through the energy and vision of a once-young person who persisted through a career lasting decades. And it’s equally common to find that, as entrepreneurs secure their businesses, they begin to concern themselves with the problem of staying relevant in a changing world and how their businesses might benefit from the next generation of innovators.

This is an issue that affects hundreds of SEMA-member businesses and the industry as a whole. The question is, what can be done to assure that our industry will remain vital generation after generation, and where will the next wave of talent come from?

SEMA’s new chairman, Doug Evans, recently shared his vision for SEMA to develop educational programs and outreach so that young people will discover careers in our great industry and meet the need for qualified employees ( Supporting that effort will be initiatives aiming to help the association connect with and serve these younger generations who will be our industry’s future.

Two of the newer initiatives are the 35 Under 35 recognition program and the Young Executives Network (YEN) ride-along with the Hot Rod Power Tour, both featured in this issue.

The 35 Under 35 program is a way to spotlight young individuals who are making outstanding contributions, sometimes launching businesses and in other cases becoming vital contributors in existing businesses. This year, more than 90 individuals were nominated for their leadership qualities, demonstrated skill and commitment to their careers.

Recognized by their peers, these are all young people who represent the future direction and growth of our industry. It’s been difficult for SEMA News editors to pare down the field to just 35 young trendsetters, but it’s also tremendously rewarding to look in on so many rising talents from the next generation. We hope you enjoy learning about these young people and their perspectives on business as much as we have.

The Power Tour ride-along is another program with long legs and a wide ripple effect. For the second year, SEMA helped a group of YEN members immerse themselves in the industry and meet with enthusiasts along a 1,500-mile journey. Besides gaining a firsthand perspective of the market, the YEN team spent time with industry leaders and icons throughout the tour. They were also able to share their enthusiasm by visiting schools along the route.

Interacting with students, the YEN representatives were able to highlight career paths in our industry and reinforce the expectations of learners who hope to find success in the automotive sector. Their example encourages the next generation of technicians who will be needed to work on even the newest, most advanced and complex vehicles coming to market.

You can look in on the thoughts and experiences of each of the YEN members on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by searching the hashtag #YENPowerTour. You’ll see that there was real growth and positive energy generated by this initiative, both by the YEN members and among the students and enthusiasts they encountered.

These are just two of many SEMA-supported programs and initiatives aimed at integrating young people into our industry. At the SEMA Show, you’ll see the results of several more, including an award for the GEN III Innovator of the Year and the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow competition.

Between SEMA’s coming initiatives in education and existing programs as illuminated here, we can be confident that there will be another wave of trained, dedicated people to move our industry forward. And we’d like to thank all those who help make this possible. Whether by nominating deserving young people, hiring an intern, supporting technical education or encouraging young enthusiasts, we can all play a role in keeping our industry rich in talent, energy and passion for years to come.

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