DIAMOND BAR, Calif. — The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) is partnering with five high school auto shop programs throughout the country to raise awareness of the automotive aftermarket as career choice.
The partnerships — with schools in California, Michigan, Texas and Virginia — are modeled on a pilot program SEMA established earlier with Santa Fe Early College Opportunities High School's automotive program in Santa Fe, N.M.
The programs involve students working alongside industry professionals on vehicle builds that will be auctioned off to raise money for ongoing, sustainable student customization builds.
Last year, more than 90 students took part in the modification of a 2015 4WD Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that sold for more than $56,000 through the Bring a Trailer auction site dedicated to vintage cars.
The funds are being used this year to purchase a new vehicle that will serve as the platform for another student build at Santa Fe High School, SEMA said.
Other schools participating in this year's program are: C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge, Va; Comstock High School in Kalamazoo, Mich.; R.L. Turner High School in Carrollton, Texas; and Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in Santa Ynez, Calif. More than 90 schools applied to participate in this year's program, which is limited to five schools.
"We didn't know what to expect from the inaugural program, but seeing the students' excitement, interest and growth was amazing," SEMA Chairman Wade Kawasaki said.
"Many auto tech programs have limited funds and are unable to provide students with the type of experience that we're giving them," he added. "We're happy to be able to provide students with this unique opportunity to get them excited about the customization lifestyle. It's encouraging to know that these kids will be contributing to the industry's future."
Organizers hope to continue to roll the program out to even more schools next year.
"There is definitely strong interest and demand in the program," SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting said. "And, going forward, we will be investigating ways in which we can expand the program so that more schools and students can participate."
To help sustain the program, SEMA is relying on parts donations from automotive aftermarket parts manufacturer members. Among the products SEMA said wanted are suspension products, interior/exterior accessories and wheels and tires for 1997 through 2005 Jeep Wrangler TJs.
The completed vehicles will be auctioned off to raise money for future vehicle builds, thereby creating a sustainable program at each school.
For more information or details, visit sema.org/studentbuild.