SEMA Scholarship Committee: Cultivating a Future Talent Pool

SEMA Member News—January 2020

By Ellen McKoy

  Brian MasingillBrian Massingill, SAM Tech’s vice president of business development, recently joined the SEMA Scholarship Committee.
   

Scholarships have a long history in our country. In fact, the very first scholarship dates to colonial times before our country became the United States of America. In 1643—long before the United States declared its independence—Lady Anne Radcliffe created a scholarship at Harvard with an endowment of 100 British pounds to honor her late husband, Thomas Mowlson, who had been Lord Mayor of London.

Flash forward 376 years. For many students currently enrolled in or aspiring to attend college or a technical school, scholarships are a lifeline—a financial leg up that can help to pave the way to a future career. Fortunately for students seeking careers in the automotive specialty-equipment market, the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund has been providing that leg up for more than three decades.

The SEMA Scholarship Committee, comprised of volunteers and SEMA staff, is tasked with overseeing and guiding the program. This year, the fund awarded $272,000 in scholarships to worthy students as well as loan-forgiveness awards to employees of SEMA-member companies, bringing the total to more than $2.5 million awarded to more than 1,500 students since the program was launched in 1984.

Recently, the committee added a noted influencer to its ranks. Brian Massingill serves as the vice president of business development for the School of Automotive Machinists & Technology (SAM Tech). Last summer, he was named one of the industry’s young trendsetters, joining SEMA News’ 2019 class of “35 Under 35.”

Although not a member of the Scholarship Committee, Marla Moore is also a well-known influencer. Marketing director for Legendary Companies (formerly the Coker Group), she has a long-standing connection to the scholarship program and a deep-rooted interest in bringing young people into the aftermarket industry.

ScholarshipSAM Tech students at work in the CNC lab. The school takes a hands-on approach to preparing students for careers in motorsports and the automotive performance industry.  
   

Both Moore and Massingill have successfully navigated their courses through the industry, arriving at their destinations in roundabout ways. Moore was exposed to the racing world as a youngster but pursued a degree in fine arts. A series of smart career moves led unexpectedly to the aftermarket and her current role. Along the way, Moore also earned a reputation as a perennial volunteer, serving in various capacities with SEMA councils and networks.

Massingill, on the other hand, inherited a passion for motorsports from his drag-racing parents, who founded the Houston-based SAM Tech. As a teenager, he raced the family’s Suburban and, later, a COPO Camaro. After college, he gravitated to the film industry. But the pull of motorsports and the idea of helping to nurture the next generation of high-performance pros was too strong. Massingill shifted gears and joined the family enterprise.

SEMA Member News recently spoke with Moore and Massingill. We asked them about their backgrounds and how their industry experiences and visions could help SEMA and the committee best utilize available resources to attract bright, educated and talented young people to our industry.

Marla Moore: Paving the Way

“My dad was a car guy,” Moore said. “He was always rebuilding cars. He was in the Air Force, but it just came naturally to him. He also liked going to drag races. Because I was an artist, he took me to the track, where I painted names and numbers on the sides of race cars.

“I graduated from high school with scholarships in engineering and art. I chose the University of Memphis, where I was a fine arts major. After college, I was an illustrator for high-end department stores. While helping a friend with graphic design work, I applied for a job as a graphic designer at the same company. And here’s the part that first tied into automotive: It was the original Auto Trader magazine.

“From there, I was [recruited] by an ad agency. My top clients were Tropicana, Federal Express and Auto Shack, which offered me a job as art director. I took Auto Shack to its first SEMA Show in the early ’80s and worked on rebranding when the name changed to Auto Zone. I was then offered a job at Comp Cams as creative director and later moved into advertising and marketing. Then I was hired at Hypertech, and I joined Coker Tire in 2013.

“Working in automotive was always the furthest thing from my mind. Apart from my job as a graphic designer for a publication that just happened to be in automotive, I never applied for a job in this industry. But this industry has given me opportunities I never could have imagined.

“My first experience as a volunteer was at Hypertech. Amy Faulk was on the Scholarship Committee and asked me to help with the SEMA Silent Auction. As a SEMA council and network volunteer, there’s a need to [address] new technologies and to build a talent pipeline for young people.

“That’s a concern for everybody: how we reach young people and get them into our industry. We could do a better job of educating kids at a young age that they don’t have to go to college. They can attend a trade school, sign on as an apprentice, and make a good living in an industry that’s lots of fun.

“We also need to educate high-school counselors about our industry and that it can be an easy route for a lot of students. Many high schools no longer have shop classes. But there’s usually a trade school in every city. Maybe we could work with trade schools to create a pathway for students to take classes there. Those things can take years to develop, but we have to figure out how to cultivate that talent pool.

“Scholarships are a big carrot to get kids into our industry. It’s important to ensure that the fund has a strong financial foundation so we can continue to attract the next generation. I have great admiration for Kim Pendergast, the Scholarship Committee chair, and I’m excited to see what the committee is able do.”

Brian Massingill: Educating a Future Workforce

“I grew up in this industry,” Massingill said. “My dad owned Northwest Engine Supply, and my parents were into drag racing as a hobby. They opened SAM Tech in 1985 to provide technical and machinist career training in the racing industry.

“After I got my driver’s license, I started racing our Suburban at Houston Raceway Park and then moved into a Z/28 Camaro. I raced all through high school but didn’t get any credit for it as an athletic activity, because the athletic director said it wasn’t a real sport.

“I went to the University of Texas, Austin, but left before graduating to work on movies and TV shows. I got a job offer in Los Angeles and worked behind the camera on reality shows. After returning to the university, I had to decide between moving to L.A., staying in Austin working on film and TV, or working for my parents. At the time, they hadn’t given that idea much thought, but they were buying a COPO Camaro, so I volunteered to race it and became a full-time employee in 2012.

“I started out working in admissions and then moved into the business side. I work with sponsors and with the NHRA SAMTechedu.com Factory Stock Showdown, help to connect students with potential employers, and look for other areas, such as EFI, where we can fulfill a need. We also take a group of students to the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show and coach them on how to use it as a job fair.

“We’re more hands-on than other vocational schools. We’re teaching machinists, not technicians. We offer block, head, CNC machining, EFI calibration and an associate’s degree program. My biggest challenge is convincing parents who might have to sign off on a loan and want their kid to go to a more traditional four-year college. But students are here because of the hands-on work they’re doing and their passion for it.

“The big thing for me is educating people about career options. Last year, I had the privilege of meeting Kim Pendergast to talk about the scholarship program. When she called out of the blue to ask me to be on the committee, Kim said she wanted an insider view from an educator’s standpoint.

“We talked about maybe having some fundraisers at dragstrips across the country with a percentage of the proceeds going to the scholarship fund. I’m very excited. Just being able to help more students, not just our own, is huge. I’ll help any way I can to get the next generation of gearheads and performance enthusiasts into this industry.”

Online applications for next year’s scholarship and loan-forgiveness awards will be accepted from November 1, 2019, through March 1, 2020, at www.sema.org/scholarships. For additional information or questions, contact SEMA Student Programs Manager Juliet Marshall by phone at 909-978-6655 or via email at julietm@sema.org.

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