Overland Park, Kan. — Zurich, a property-casualty insurance company, announced that Zurich Direct Underwriters, its business unit with a highly specialized focus on the North American automotive industry, is extending its commitment to education and the automotive industry. Zurich Direct Underwriters is working with the Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) by awarding $10,000 in scholarships for those planning careers in the automotive aftermarket.

“Providing money for scholarships is one way to help ensure there are knowledgeable and well-trained professionals in the industry,” said Gerry Cecil, national director of field marketing for the Automotive Specialty Markets (ASM) division of Direct Underwriters. “We believe these scholarships will help attract new entrants into automotive aftermarket fields as well as improve the management and technical knowledge of those already working in the industry.”

The typical scholarship award amount is $1,000, but qualified applicants may be eligible for additional funding. Applicants must either be graduating high school seniors or have graduated from high school within the past two years (2006 or after). An exception to the two-year requirement can be made for those in the military or religious service.

“We are delighted that Zurich has made this substantial investment in our scholarship fund,” said Pete Kornafel, chairman of the Global Automotive Symposium Scholarship Committee. “Commitments like this from Zurich and other aftermarket companies will ensure that we are able to continue attracting the best and brightest students to join our industry.”

Cecil said Zurich’s involvement in funding educational programs for the aftermarket industry grew during the early 1990s with the creation of a separate ASM division within Direct Underwriters. ASM provides focus on automotive businesses outside of Direct Underwriters' traditional automotive dealer customers.

As a charter governor organization of the Automotive Management Institute (AMI), in the mid 1990s Direct Underwriters provided an initial monetary contribution to AMI, which offers practical business management education tailored to the automotive service industry. Cecil said ASM developed courses for AMI including a four-credit-hour course titled, “How to Purchase Business Insurance” and continues its support via participation on the AMI board of directors. During Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week, Direct Underwriters is sponsoring education and training programs for owners and managers at the Automotive Parts Remanufacturers Association's International BIG R Show.

“As an organization, Zurich is committed to ensuring the next generation of qualified employees for the automotive aftermarket,” Cecil said. “Our funding commitment to GAAS is the right thing to do to help our customers and the automotive aftermarket industry. Our goal is to increase scholarship contributions through co-sponsorships from associations and groups with whom we have solid relationships which, in turn, will prompt more candidates to seek scholarship support.”

Zurich’s Direct Underwriters business unit is contributing these funds to the Symposium Scholarship Fund. All net proceeds of GAAS are used to fund scholarships for students pursuing automotive industry careers, including technical and management training programs. Since the program began in 1996, more than 1,300 scholarships have been awarded. Information about eligibility requirements and an online application are available at http://www.automotivescholarships.com.