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Let’s fill the aftermarket talent pipeline

We can all support the University of the Aftermarket Foundation — the meeting place for students who wish to pursue an aftermarket career and those who offer scholarships

Some months ago I made a plea that, as an industry, we all get together and support the aftermarket, recruit and train talented people for our industry. And yes, I am still adamant about my plea. Happy to report that one group has really picked up the challenge and run. The University of the Aftermarket Foundation (UAF).

The seed for this group was planted in 1986 when the Automotive Warehouse Distributor’s Association (AWDA), which had a strong scholarship program for aftermarket people already in place, met with the folks who together would make up what would become the University of the Aftermarket Foundation. 

Over the next bit they took the AWDA program, widened it, and deepened it such that it would include education, scholarships, training and much more. And, it would include the many great scholarships from manufacturers, distributors, other foundations, families and money raised by the Foundation itself.

When you look up the UAF you’ll find it to be a Who’s Who of the aftermarket. There are great names from our past, current and future aftermarket leadership. If this sounds like I am all excited and maybe offering a bit of a commercial — I am. This is the type of organization that simply meets so many needs. And for all of us lifetime “aftermarketeers” that would like to see our industry flourish, it’s a big part of the answer. And I know their approach is sound. As mentioned a while ago, I was on the board of one of the country’s first similar foundation with a vehicle dealer’s association at the state level. 

The mission of the UAF according to their own statements includes:

  • Fund education programs
  • Fund research in the aftermarket
  • Award grants
  • Provide scholarships to deserving high school and college students in a variety of areas
  • Funds AAP and MAAP certificates
  • And more

For example, last year there were 385 scholarships for a total of $643,000. Over the past 25 years a total of 6,000-plus scholarships for more than $6 million dollars were awarded. These scholarships may be used for tuition, books and fees. In fact, the UAF is really the meeting place for students who wish to pursue an aftermarket career and the people and companies that offer scholarships. It operates as a clearing house of sorts for students who need scholarships in our own industry.

Seventy percent of those who applied for scholarship were headed to careers in the auto, truck, body, ag/off-highway industry as technicians. Much of the balance are 4 year college students entering the aftermarket in areas like engineering, marketing, management, accounting and many other areas sorely needed in our industry.

Those selected for a scholarship go through a rigorous application process. They must first go to the UAF website ( and download or complete application materials online. They are expected to present an essay as to their desire, passion, and relevant experience. They may choose to do this essay via a YouTube presentation. They also need references and their high school and/or college work transcripts to date. All of this is due in by March 31 (so get hopping). Over the summer all of the completed applications are reviewed by real people from the aftermarket. They are sorted and sent to the UAF for final action depending on who is best to fund the award. 

By August the review winds up and the scholarships are chosen. Each winning individual is then contacted. At that time a letter of acceptance to a qualified school must be in hand before the dollars are awarded. Finally, the sponsoring companies or the UAF forward the money to the school.  Remember, technical schools or 4 year institutions who are accredited are included. Oh, and they’ll need a photo of themselves with the acceptance.

Please keep in mind, this process is used to funnel UAF scholarships and those offered by manufacturers, other groups and family foundations in the aftermarket.  The August contact will be from the UAF, but the money will be forwarded by the aftermarket manufacturer, the UAF fund or a family foundation. UAF acts not only as an award source on its own, but as a sort of clearinghouse for the entire aftermarket.

Assuming you are as excited as I am about this special group, there are a few things we need to do.  First, get the word out to possible scholarship recipients ASAP. Application ends March 31. 

Then, remember, these activities aren’t free. While virtually anyone involved with UAF is volunteering out of love for this business, there is overhead in the form of an office and a small staff. The big expense are the awards themselves. So, I am asking that all of us hit the UAF site ( and make a donation for the future of the aftermarket we all love. Make it in your name, the name of your firm, talk to your management about a donation, whatever. And to make the point, when you get to the site, just look at the list of companies, people and other foundations that already support the UAF. 

Would you put out a hundred dollars for a new tech or employee already trained and ready to hit the ground running? Of course. While your donation doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll one day hire a UAF scholar, it does mean you will be helping to fill the aftermarket pipeline. And that’s good for all of us. However, if you do want to hire someone from the program, then talk with the UAF about funding a scholarship for someone in your, or your company’s, name. Just know that anything you can give or do helps this aftermarket world of ours be better now and in the future.

At a young age, industry veteran Tom Langer started detailing cars for his family’s dealerships, which then led to work in the jobber and warehouse business, along with a machine shop and auto body shop. He held a variety of positions with an auto parts manufacturer for 10 years, and remained in the industry working with shops, warehouses and manufacturers in research and more. 

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