From the Archives - Getting One Step Ahead: The SEMA Student Show

Around this time of the year, all eyes would be on Las Vegas for the annual SEMA Show. But alas, as with all major public events, especially with a highly anticipated international audience, 2020 has claimed another victim in the form of the physical SEMA 2020 show.

In case you’ve been under a rock, SEMA, the ‘Specialty Equipment Market Association’ Show, is one of the biggest automotive showcases,  in the world. It's a time when major brands like Eibach and Chevrolet, to the unknown but somewhat infamous ‘JK Tyres’, come together to showcase what is new, trending, and to come in the aftermarket parts industry. 
Contrary to popular belief, SEMA is not your typical car show populated with ‘show builds’, made for Instagram clout and the internet to incite flame wars over. After all, SEMA is not even open to the general public; aside from the ‘Ignited’ afterparty, where all of the year’s show cars roll out of Las Vegas Convention Centre in a large parade. In fact, SEMA is intended for representatives of the automotive industry to do business with one another, highlight what is trending for the modification scene to prepare accordingly, attend seminars to hear from some of the most prolific automotive personalities, and more.

Furthermore, the cars that get the internet talking for weeks on end, they are there in Vegas with purpose: to display the products firsthand that will be premiering on the market by the New Year. 

Being a trade show strictly limited to only manufacturers, buyers, exhibitors, or media members of the automotive industry, means only a select number of people are eligible to attend all three days.  In other words, if you prove that you are involved within the automotive industry to any degree, from a company that makes machinery in auto body shops to the latest in aftermarket performance components, a private car detailer, or even a wholesaler of all-terrain floor mats everyone buys off  eBay, you are considered eligible for a pass to partake in the event.  
Which leaves the question you may be wondering, how was I able to attend the show?
I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to attend the SEMA 2019 show ,through their ‘Student Show’ program.  Yes, an undergraduate student like myself in 2019, in his last year of studies, managed to get a pass for the show. And surprisingly, you don’t need to be a student studying in an automotive related/specific field to apply for a show pass: as long as you can prove you are a student (high school, university or trade school) studying some form of degree or discipline, you are good to go. 
Whether you are studying automotive engineering at community college,  completing a double degree in Business and Engineering, or like myself then, completing a degree in Mas Communications, it's a hidden opportunity only a few ever know like the secret menu at In'N'Out. 
As part of being given permission to attend the SEMA Show last year, I agreed to contribute an article promoting the Student Show for my university’s newspaper, the Kalamalama, at Hawaii Pacific University. I wrote a decent feature piece, provided plenty of illustrative photos of my time there, and even had quotes from the SEMA Student Program staff/PR team thrown in for good measure; all ready to go! I sent it off to the student editor-in-chief to be reviewed and eventually published online, however, I didn’t hear any updates from him on the article since then. 

I waited patiently for updates from the newspaper team, right up until March this year; as the Covid-19 pandemic started getting serious and things began locking down. Sadly, that meant this feature had to take a backseat, as it was obvious that between a campus newspaper versus ensuring the health and safety of everyone, one took precedence over the other. 

And in those times, honestly, no one had the right mindset to focus on ensuring a written piece by one of many students attending a private university on Oahu,  got published onto a website hardly anyone heard about or even took the time to read. (since any potential reader was preoccupied with stocking up on toilet paper, bare essentials, and remaining sanity). 
So it sat forgotten for a good half a year on my Google Drive folder, buried under my files and photos from other features and photoshoots. But with this time being when the latest SEMA product announcements and builds would be going viral on the internet, I’ve decided to revive it once more, and finally give its moment in the spotlight it well deserves. 
Disclaimer: Please note that I wrote this a year ago, intended to be read by fellow university students (who are generally not car enthusiasts nor interested in them) to learn about the Student Show; should they be interested to apply for it themselves. There was also a major quote from someone representing the SEMA Student Programs team I had to omit, as he is no longer associated with them. Apologies in advance if what you are about to read sounds incomplete and is much shorter than what you are used to from my regular features! 

Every year around the first week of November, the entire world comes to Las Vegas. Not to strike it big at the gambling circuits, the entertainment venues, or to live out ‘The Hangover’ fantasy experience, but for the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show hosted at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Open only to automotive industry manufacturers, buyers, show exhibitors, and media professionals, the four-day event showcases the latest aftermarket products, trends, and businesses.

\In addition to networking various entities involved in the aftermarket industry worldwide, SEMA also provides education opportunities for various industry members to improve their services, prepare for emerging trends, and communicate directly with industry professionals. From seminars with famous C.E.Os, to informative keynotes about how to use social media to market effectively, SEMA also provides an opportunity for students to participate in the four-day convention: The SEMA Education Student Program.
Students of any academic study or discipline are invited to apply: whether they are studying engineering, learning to be a mechanic at Community College, or attending business school, the Student Program is not strictly limited to students studying engineering or mechanical-specific fields. If you’re a student studying some form of discipline or degree path, undergraduate or graduate, you’re welcome to participate. 
Those that attend not only gain all-paid access to the entire SEMA across all four days, but also admission into a student-focused Career Fair with various firms, direct consultance from industry professionals, free breakfast/luncheon keynotes headed by the SEMA board discussing new trends in the aftermarket industry; even an opportunity to observe the SEMA Launch Pad choose a winner amongst the few young entrepreneurs that will receive funding for their innovative product. 
Through an assortment of initiatives, SEMA’s student programs are aimed at inspiring and encouraging young people to learn about, and potentially pursue a career in the aftermarket industry. Furthermore, the show offers an opportunity to potentially meet a prospective employer or get direct advice career-wise from an industry expert. 
The benefit of the SEMA Student Show is that students have a unique opportunity to directly get involved in the automotive industry, meet famous figures from the industry (many of which they follow on social media and other major publications), and experts face to face. Initiatives like the Student Show are great ways to show the potential contacts or jobs the automotive industry can offer, which could then lead to discovering and networking with a valuable contact or employer. 
As the saying  goes, “Surround yourself with like-minded people,'' there is no doubt the SEMA Student Show program is a prime example of this. While some things that happen in Vegas are meant to stay in Vegas, the potential connections and experiences that are made at SEMA will surely not stay beyond the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign
If you were hoping to read more about SEMA 2019 this week, keep an eye on the blog this coming weekend. I'll have something prepared to supplement this little taster of what the show was like last year! 


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