Target: Skilled Employees, Now and in the Future
One of the more challenging quests in the specialty aftermarket is to attract, hire and develop qualified employees—people who will fill a range of roles and help our members’ businesses transition to the future. This is especially challenging as new technologies emerge at an increasing speed.
That’s why the SEMA board, councils and staff are focused on new ways to equip the next generation to find jobs and grow careers in our industry. These efforts can be divided into three fronts—development training and experiences for existing members; establishing better ties and pipelines with schools where students are already studying automotive fields; and establishing pathways to allow even more young people to aim for a career in the specialty segment of the industry.
Programs for Existing Members
SEMA has for years offered career development and training for our members. But today we are coming up with new ways to make this information available, like our new “Biz Tips” video-shorts series. These and other tools for members can be accessed through www.sema.org. Meanwhile, at the SEMA Show and PRI Show, we’ll continue to offer dozens of top-notch educational opportunities for attendees in a wide variety of different categories.
SEMA is also taking steps to make sure that students already studying for automotive careers will be more aware of the specialty automotive segment and the wide range of exciting career opportunities our industry offers. To accomplish this, we are actively expanding our relationships with educational institutions.
For example, we are growing the SEMA Show Student Program, which introduces students to the career opportunities in the specialty aftermarket. SEMA helped sponsor 440 students from 65 schools to attend the 2014 Show and learn about our industry. Since 2003, more than 2,950 students from North American Schools have benefitted from this networking program.
And since not all students can make it to the SEMA Show, we are offering a new initiative to bring students to SEMA member gatherings where they can interact with key professionals about career possibilities. We call it a Career Mixer, and the program will be incorporated into the existing Town Hall meetings as well as some of our Council and Network receptions and other events. The SEMA Gear-up Girl Program has had good success hosting a similar industry program for the past three years with students at the SEMA Show.
On yet another front, this summer SEMA will pilot a first-ever program to help match young people up with industry companies for short internships we call Career Windows. These internships are aimed at providing post-secondary students the opportunity to experience the business of the specialty automotive aftermarket through one- to three-week, immersive internships.
All of the above student programs are further supported by the SEMA Scholarship Fund. The fund offers scholarships to help students pay for automotive-related education. Since 1984, the fund has awarded more than 1,300 scholarships and given more than $2 million in aid. The Scholarship Fund board and SEMA staff are continuing to evolve the scholarship program to be a meaningful factor in attracting and supporting students aiming for an automotive career.
It’s easy to see that SEMA is developing a wide range of programs to introduce the next generation work force to careers in the specialty industry. And this column doesn’t have space to detail some great existing programs SEMA is supporting, such as Hot Rodders of Tomorrow, the new Alex Xydias School for Automotive Arts, and the Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR).
Moving forward, we’ll continue to study the needs of SEMA members and the students we hope will one day work in our great industry. That will help us drive the initiatives we already have in place, and properly target new ones, so that our industry can continue to grow and prosper.
—Chris Kersting, SEMA President and CEO