Institutions Encourage Undergrads to Participate in SEMA Student Programs
The SEMA Scholarship Program cultivates and maintains relationships with colleges, universities and trade schools that are automotive-driven through programs and courses. Students are encouraged by faculty and staff to participate in the many student programs that SEMA offers, including career-fair participation, scholarship money, automotive-specific job boards, attending the SEMA Show and more.
SEMA News caught up with a few representatives from institutions that advocate for students pursuing careers within the automotive aftermarket and that take advantage of SEMA student programs.
At McPherson College, students have the opportunity to experience all areas of restoring an automobile, including paint, chassis, drivetrain, metal fabrication, wood, trim, electrical, machining and engines.
McPherson College, a four-year university located in Kansas, offers a bachelor’s degree in historic automotive restoration. Students can select their emphasis from restoration, management, design, history or communications, and they have the opportunity to experience all aspects of restoring an automobile, including paint, chassis, drivetrain, metal fabrication, wood, trim, electrical, machining and engines.
“The majority of our students will choose to work in a shop or open their own, while others aspire to manage a private collection or work in a museum,” said Amanda Gutierrez, who is the vice president of auto restoration for the college. “A number of students work for insurance companies or auction houses, working with customers, writing for auction catalogs or helping to manage the auctions themselves.”
Gutierrez said that students who have attended the SEMA Show—either as scholarship recipients or on their own—rave about their experiences.
“They appreciate the network of connections that SEMA can provide for them as they make their way in the automotive world,” she said. “In addition to academic classes, the automotive restoration program at McPherson College offers an Auto Restoration Summer Institute, where students can dive into a specific restoration skill in a small-group, hands-on setting in a condensed time period. The college also offers students a community through its College of Automotive Restoration Students Club, where students can share their automotive passions outside of the classroom by participating in car shows, cruises, old-car movie nights and many more events.”
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the primary involvement with automotive concepts is through student clubs, including SAE formula racing, Baja racecar competition, super-mileage vehicles, human-powered vehicles and various others.
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has both a mechanical engineering program and a manufacturing engineering program, each recognized by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Each major is very involved in automotive issues from both design and manufacturing perspectives. The primary involvement with automotive concepts is through student clubs, including SAE formula racing, Baja race-car competition, super-mileage vehicles, human-powered vehicles and various others. The basics of engine design and performance, composite materials design and fabrication, power transmission, manufacturing and more are covered in the two programs.
Students in these curricula seek careers as professional engineers after graduation. The industry, job function and type of company are extremely varied. Between the two programs, Cal Poly graduates about 200 students per year, and many are focused on automotive companies.
“I love the opportunities that SEMA offers students,” said Professor Dan Waldorf. “The association’s scholarship program is impressive and provides some much-needed assistance to students with a future in the automotive industry.”
Waldorf talks directly with students about upcoming opportunities, also distributing information via email and collaborating with other faculty members.
“Students always love attending the SEMA Show in Las Vegas,” he said. “Many make valuable personal contacts with industry reps or other Show attendees, and students often bring résumés to distribute to key industry contacts at the Show.”
Clemson University encourages its students to take advantage of and participate in SEMA’s student programs. The Michelin Career Center, a division of the Center for Career and Professional Development, has been bringing students to the SEMA Show since 2004.
“Students are able to see the vast variety of professional experiences that are available to them in the automotive industry by walking the trade-show floor and participating in the educational programs,” said Katherine Horner, assistant director of graduate programs and off-campus internships.
The university’s automotive engineering program seeks to develop strong engineering and science-based skills coupled with hands-on capability and practical knowledge using vehicular systems and sub-systems as platforms for intensive collaborative team projects as well as industry internships. Graduate students (master’s and Ph.D.) in the department of automotive engineering study topics related to vehicle systems integration as well as advanced powertrains and drivelines. Leadership, innovation and management skills in a global economy are emphasized in the program.