The Farm Team: Building the Next Generation of Car Builders
Training the next generation of STEM workers through scholarship opportunities and internships ranks high on CEO of Gateway Bronco’s priority list. That is why Gateway Bronco launched its Innovators Scholarship in 2021; this program recognizes and rewards aspiring automotive restoration and repair students. It also benefits auto restoration programs at McPherson College in Kansas and the Carroll Shelby Automotive Program at Northeast Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. The scholarship awards funds to college interns to offset living expenses during the summer internship.
In addition to the Innovators Scholarship for college students, Gateway Bronco participates in a state of Illinois program that places high school students in STEM-oriented internships. The company currently has three high school interns working their way toward careers in the automotive industry.
“Each aspiring technician has done a great job and is advancing quickly within each of their three spaces,” said Gateway Bronco CEO Seth Burgett. “One intern is in assembly, another is a solid TIG welder becoming a fabricator, and the third is in autobody.”
As for the Innovators Scholarship recipients, last year’s college interns are now full-time Gateway Bronco employees. “They worked through the summer,” Burgett noted. “We gave them some big challenges. They were offered positions as full-time employees at the end of July, and they’ve been with us since then as full-time technicians.”
The current Farm Team of interns and former interns come from different backgrounds and have a variety of goals. Take a moment to follow along and keep up with the next generation of rising automotive talent at Gateway Bronco:
High School Interns
“Johnny is currently a welder working his way to become a fabricator and someday a car builder,” Burgett said.
Johnny has his eyes firmly fixed on someday creating cars of his own design. “I hope to build as many skills as possible so I can create a good career for myself,” he said. “I hope to be as sharp as possible with all of the skills I acquire. My dream career is to fabricate and design extreme sports vehicles.”
“Seth started sweeping the floors at age 15, and now he’s building cars as part of Station 2 on our assembly line,” Burgett said.
For Seth, the feeling of camaraderie and willingness to share information at the shop was eye-opening. “The help and support from others is what I look forward to every day before work,” he said. “I never thought I would feel as included as right now due to my age.”
“Griffin is one of the three people who prep every vehicle prior to it being painted. He’s the last person to touch the vehicle before it goes into the booth,” Burgett said.
“The most beneficial thing I have learned is how to work with other people and how to prep parts for paint,” Griffin said. “The most surprising aspect was how easy it is to learn new skills from my coworkers who are willing to teach me.”
Mike Kirkpatrick was the 2022 recipient of the Gateway Bronco Innovators Scholarship from the Carroll Shelby Automotive Program at Northeast Texas Community College. Following his internship, he was hired by Gateway Bronco and now works at Station 4 installing interiors and has become one of the top technicians installing the Gateway Bronco patented convertible soft top.
A Ford man from the day he acquired his first set of car keys — to a 2000 Mustang — Kirkpatrick learned the basics of auto repair from the DIY school out of necessity, and later at a local restoration shop. A 1975 F100 was his college commute car, and also benefitted from his hands-on maintenance.
Kirkpatrick made his mark early during his internship, although perhaps not in the way he intended. “He has a special nickname within the organization,” Burgett said of the good-natured ribbing that goes on at the shop. “He has the name ‘Duct Tape’ or ‘Ralph,’ because after getting a ride in a Shelby at Tulsa, his last words were ‘don’t take it easy on me.’” Fortunately, there aren’t any high-g work stations at Gateway Bronco, and Kirkpatrick feels right at home on the shop floor.
Cameron Boyce joined the Marines after high school and followed that service by attending McPherson College where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Automotive Restoration Technology. He then accepted a 2022 internship with Gateway Bronco, which led to a full-time position at the end of the summer. Now, he is running ahead in completing the first-year goals set by the company, Burgett said.
“Cameron comes in every Friday with a crazy Hawaiian shirt that is different every week, and brightens up our day,” Burgett said. “He is part of what we call ‘first-fire Friday.’ If we’re going to deliver a truck a week, he’s one of the people who achieves a first start-up in Station 3 of our assembly. Every Friday we need to hear a first-fire so that we know we’re on track to have a delivery every single week.”
“The most beneficial thing I’ve learned as an intern is that developing a diverse set of skills will allow you to accomplish nearly any task with a high level of quality,” Boyce said. “I hope to apply these lessons, along with what I’ll learn in the years to come to my own personal projects. I may someday even pursue a career in the curation and restoration of vintage racing cars and motorcycles.”
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