The shortage of new technicians entering the auto repair market has become one of the most problematic situations facing our industry. Today’s technicians are getting older, with fewer and fewer young people stepping up to take their place.
The problem has become so pervasive that it’s become the focus of ATRA’s What’s Working program this year. And there’s little doubt that it’ll remain an integral part of the Association’s efforts to reinvigorate our industry in the years ahead.
ATRA’s Midwest Chapter’s board of directors recognized this situation long before it became critical, and they began an effort to help young people take their place in the future of auto repair. The Chapter’s scholarship fund provides technicians in training with some badly needed funds to help them pay for their tech school tuition.
At the same time, it lets those trainees know that, once they’ve earned their stripes, there’s an ATRA Member shop out there who’d be thrilled to help them take the next steps in their careers: a win-win for both the new technician and the Chapter that gave them a leg up when they needed it.
The Midwest Chapter scholarship program isn’t new; it’s been a part of the Chapter’s objectives since its inception in 1977, when its first president, Al Tank, took the reins. Members Red Girdley and Ed Howe came in with him and Chapter Board Member Denny Stearns joined the following year.
“Our scholarship program got its footing in 1983, when we held our first seminar program in Minneapolis,” explains Denny. “The scholarships are in honor of Kim Lingenfelter and Red Girdley.”
Kim was an early Chapter Member who passed away tragically. Red was still very much with us and active back in ’83, and was a very vocal proponent of technical education, both for new and working technicians. “The scholarship program was really his baby,” explains Denny.
One critical hurdle the Chapter had to overcome was funding the program. ATRA Chapters are non-profit entities, with very little financial backing. But there is one time each year that the Chapter has the opportunity to raise money: during the annual ATRA seminar program.
Each year, when ATRA comes to town to deliver its seminars, the Chapter has a chance to help raise money, based on the number of people they can register. “We’re very grateful for ATRA’s support in this,” says Denny.
In addition, Chapters usually offer display tables to suppliers, giving them an opportunity to meet with their customers in a social setting and introduce new products and services. At many Chapter seminars, these tables are free; at the Midwest Chapter’s program, the suppliers pay $275 per table.
“This is a voluntary fee for the suppliers,” explains Denny. “We make it a point to highlight their involvement in our industry throughout the seminar, and they know that a portion of the table fee goes directly to the scholarship fund, so they’re thrilled to take part.” This year about 20 suppliers have already reserved their table space at the Midwest Chapter seminar program.
Who’s eligible for the Midwest Chapter scholarships? Anyone living in a state served by the ATRA Midwest Chapter — Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, and the Northern part of Illinois (Zip Codes 60000–61999) — and must attend our ATRA seminar through their school or college automotive program.
Application is simple: Just fill out the application form and write a short essay explaining why you need the scholarship grant. Applications are judged by the Midwest Chapter’s scholarship committee, consisting of Chapter Board Members Jerry Jurkovski, Greg Peterson, and Gary Erickson. They award the scholarships based on the applicant’s need. You can request an application by emailing Chapter President Brad Benrud at firstname.lastname@example.org or Board Member Jerry Jurkovski at email@example.com.
Currently there are six scholarship awards available, providing $250 each. The Chapter is working on expanding the number of scholarships and the amounts awarded. “We’d like to get more applicants involved,” says Denny. “Our goal is to help bring more qualified technicians into the industry.”
If your ATRA Chapter would be interested in creating a scholarship program for your area, the Midwest Chapter would be happy to help. Drop Brad or Jerry a line: He’ll provide you with all the details you’ll need to develop and implement your own program.
Or, if you’d be interested in sponsoring a personal scholarship through the ATRA Midwest Chapter, contact Brad or Jerry for details: He’ll be glad to discuss different options for you to consider.
The ATRA Midwest Chapter scholarship fund: Taking a giant leap toward bringing new life to the transmission repair industry… one technician at a time.