Through the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund (SMSF), the association helps prepare the next generation of the automotive workforce for today's competitive market through financial assistance for students attending various universities, colleges, and/or vocational schools in the United States. In fact, the fund has yielded more than $1.5 million in scholarships since 1984.
Applications are currently being accepted for the 2012 SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund. The application, available online at www.sema.org/scholarships, requires college transcripts and letters of recommendation.
SEMA's Education Institute (SEI) recently interviewed 2010 SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund recipient Ryan Brimhall, who graduated with a double Bachelor's degree from Weber State in Automotive Field Service Technology and Technical Sales. He is currently working as a store manager for O'Reilly Auto Parts.
Brimhall shared some thoughts about why he chose a career in the auto industry and offers advice for students applying for scholarships and for those just starting out in the automotive industry.
SEMA Education Institute: What company do you work for? What is your title and area of responsibility?
Ryan Brimhall: I currently (and temporarily) work for O'Reilly Auto parts as a manager. Throughout my schooling, I worked on and off in retail parts. Working in retail auto parts provides a relatively flexible schedule and easy hours for someone attending college. When I was notified that I was a recipient of the SEMA scholarship, I could not have been more happy.
At the time, I was working for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. in Torrance, California, as a product quality and service support intern. Although this was a paid internship, I was experiencing the real-life cost of living, and the money toward school was a huge financial burden lifted off my shoulders. As the internship came to a close, I was pondering whether or not I should take out a student loan or credit card to pay the next semester of school, but thanks to the scholarship I received, I didn't have to.
I have since completed school (I graduated from Weber State University with a double Bachelor's degree in Automotive Field Service Technology and Technical Sales in December 2011) and have been taking a short break as I search for my next career opportunity.
SEI: Why did you choose to pursue a career in the automotive industry? Was it because of your enthusiasm for street rodding? A family hobby that inspired you?
Ryan Brimhall: I chose a career in the automotive industry because it's something I have always been interested in. I guess you could say cars are in my blood. I remember as a teenager, I used to send in for automotive manufacturer brochures. After reading various magazines and brochures, I would cut them up and hang the pictures on my walls. I eventually ended up with a 20-ft. collage of photos between two walls in my bedroom.
From there, my father encouraged me to go into the automotive program in high school. Coincidentally, Layton High School had one of the best automotive programs in the state of Utah at the time and is closely affiliated with Weber State University. I had two great teachers (Tom Housley and Robert Griffiths) who helped my education take off. I entered and participated in several automotive competitions and ended up winning a one-year tuition waiver to Weber State University upon high school graduation.
SEI: Do you plan to continue your higher education?
Ryan Brimhall: I have graduated with a double bachelor's degree major in Automotive Field Service technology and in the Technical Sales program. Although I am finished for now, I may consider going for a Master's degree in business, management or education. I truly enjoy learning and would go to school the rest of my life it was financially feasible or practical.
SEI: What advice would you give to a student applying for scholarships now?
Ryan Brimhall: Two words: DO IT! I was unsure about even applying for the scholarship from SEMA. At first, it seemed like a whole lot of work to fill out all the required forms, get letters of recommendation, and write a few papers. But, it paid off! I am fortunate enough to have gotten the scholarship, and, in hindsight, it was really almost no work at all to apply.
My advice is to apply for all the scholarships you can. Many students are lazy, forgetful or don't even bother to complete scholarship applications. I have seen students get scholarships time and time again while attending college just because they filled out a few scholarship requests. Also, some of the documents used for scholarship applications, such as the recommendation letters, are great for applying for jobs as well. For the students that don't believe, it's just that easy. Just look at me as an example!
SEI: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to pursue an education/career in the automotive industry?
Ryan Brimhall: I would say great choice in your education or career. The automotive industry is fast paced and dynamic. The automotive industry is changing rapidly and with so many emerging technologies, you will have a million different ways you could go with your career. You will never be bored with the possibilities in the automotive industry, just take a look at what the SEMA Show has to offer and realize that's only a fraction of the industry. You don't necessarily have to know what you want to do in life, but if you have a passion for automotive, at least you'll know you'll have a career in an industry that you love.