Paul “Scooter” Brothers, director of research and development at Competition Cams and chairman of the SEMA Scholarship Committee, believes that the association and its member companies must spread the word about the industry to ensure that talented young people know they can make a good living doing what they love.
As director of research and development at Competition Cams, Paul “Scooter” Brothers is highly attuned to the juxtaposition of challenges versus opportunities. As chairman of the SEMA Scholarship Committee, he is equally aware of how vital innovative young thinkers are to the future of the automotive specialty-equipment industry. We recently sought his comments about the SEMA Scholarship Fund and its importance to member companies.
SEMA News: What is the mission of the SEMA Scholarship Committee?
Paul “Scooter” Brothers: The official mission statement is, “To foster industry leadership by supporting the education of students pursuing careers in the automotive aftermarket.” The spirit of the mission is to make sure that students are aware of the opportunities available to them when they graduate and try to convince them to come to work for SEMA-member companies. There’s a lot of competition for the brightest young talent, and one of the great SEMA-member benefits is telling the industry story to young talent and having the opportunity to draft some of them onto our team. Once we have them working for our companies, the sometimes bigger issue is keeping them. That’s where the loan forgiveness part of the program comes in.
SN: The SEMA Loan Forgiveness Program is a unique offering to the industry. Why was it created, and how successful is the program?
PSB: This program is not only unique, but it gives SEMA-member companies a leg up in recruiting the brightest young talent. The thought behind it is that graduates can have part of their student loans retired if they are actually working for a SEMA-member company. From what I have seen, this is the only program of its kind and is one of the best ways to differentiate a job at a SEMA-member company from all the others in the market.
At least this way we know for sure that we have them in our industry and can help them with their debt. It’s one of the best benefits to recent graduates and to SEMA members.
SN: How long have you been involved with the SEMA Scholarship Committee, and why did you get involved?
PSB: I’ve only been involved with the SEMA Scholarship Committee formally for about 18 months, but I do a fair amount of interfacing with schools and universities through their engineering and motorsports activities. I have judged Formula SAE events for several years. That’s where about 100 universities actually build spec race cars and compete against each other. It’s a great event and an even better chance to interface with bright kids who love cars and motorsports. When I asked them at one event if they knew about SEMA, they said, “Sure, that’s a Show in Vegas.” Then they asked if any of our companies ever hired engineers. I knew right then that we had a lot of work to do. Even though the SEMA Scholarship Fund has distributed more than $1 million to students, we haven’t done a great job of telling our story and working to get these kids involved with SEMA-member companies when they graduate.
SN: What do you personally hope to accomplish each year with the scholarship program?
PSB: Obviously, we need to help with the education of young talent. But it is also important to spread the word about our industry and make sure these young kids know that we need them to work for our member companies and that they can make a good living doing what they love. These students are so bright and the tools they use today are so advanced, that it’s obvious they are the future of our industry. If we can show them the benefits of working in the performance aftermarket, we will ensure a healthy future for our member companies. The second part of working with the program is knowing that we helped in the education of these kids. It has become just about as rewarding to me to help them as it is to bring products or companies along. I know it sounds corny, but it simply feels good to participate in the committee.
SN: Why is the scholarship program important to the industry?
PSB: The health of the industry lies in young people, even while they are in school. It really doesn’t matter if they work on cars, race cars or work within the industry, but we stand a much better chance of keeping them “in the family” for years to come if we get them involved at a young age. We need these kids to design, manufacture, market or buy the products made by SEMA-member companies. The earlier we can plant the performance seed with them, the more of a chance we will have to get them into our industry.
SN: How may other employees of SEMA-member companies become involved in the SEMA Scholarship Committee or the Scholarship and Loan Forgiveness Programs?
PSB: This is what makes the SEMA industry so much fun. People come from every part of the membership to participate in the committee. Whether it’s fundraising or just the legwork of the committee, there is never a lack of participation from fellow SEMA members. They tend to have a soft spot for younger people who are interested in our segment of the market, and there’s a feeling of satisfaction when we see kids come into our world and make careers for themselves. It has been very rewarding as chairman of this committee to have such tremendous support from other SEMA-member companies.
The deadline for Scholarship and Loan Forgiveness applications is April 1, 2009. Scholarship applications may be downloaded at www.SEMA.org/scholarships, and loan reimbursement applications may be downloaded at www.SEMA.org/loanforgiveness.