University computer science student Bryant Valverde, 19, has aspirations of putting his skills to good use in the automotive industry.
Valverde recently received a $2,500 education grant from the New Car Dealers Foundation of BC (NCDABC) through the CarCareerBC program to help him continue his studies.
“I really do appreciate this (grant)” he said. “I worked throughout the summer to save up money for rent and food. Now with the money this is not going to be as stressful a year, it’s going to make school a little bit easier knowing the semester is paid for.”
What the Okanagan Falls teen is looking at career-wise is not high-end engineering technology or design, but employment at the dealership level.
“There’s a lot more to it nowadays, things are a lot more complex,” said Valverde, who is currently in his second year at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna.
“The bar has really been raised in the industry, a lot of dealerships have fully automated systems from sales leads to people walking in the door, everything is computerized now, really high tech.
“My interest in the industry is that dealers use different software stuff for inventory and accounting. I like the sales atmosphere and the kind of atmosphere where you have to meet targets.”
More than many other industries, the face of the automotive business has changed dramatically from what it used to be only a few short years ago.
Those working on vehicles are now technicians instead of mechanics, often using laptops as much as they do wrenches.
For the past 12 years Valverde has worked at Skaha Ford and at the Penticton Kia dealership since it opened.
He does both detailing jobs and provides some computer and online support.
David Newman, who, along with wife Joanna owns Skaha Ford and Penticton Kia, was the one who presented the cheque to his young employee.
“It’s our way really to give back to those students in the automotive field and want to have a career in the industry by giving them some financial help,” said Newman.
“Over the years so much has changed and all of our staff are truly professional.
“We look for people who have post-secondary school education both in the sales and technical side.”
He added as a result of social media and the Internet, customers are much more savvy and already have a very good idea of what they are looking for in a vehicle when they show up at the dealership.
NCDFBC president Blair Qualey believes the bursary program is important in generating the interest of future workers in the business.
“We need good young people to keep it going and one of the ways the dealers thought we could do that is by providing bursaries or grants to folks that want to do that,” said Qualey.
“The young fellow from Okanagan Falls going to UBC Okanagan to take computer sciences loves the automotive sector and he’s jumped in to do that and the dealers want to help people like that and he is really in a good position for the kinds of opportunities that are going to be there.”