A Tale of Two Scotts: How the OTA Ed Foundation is Primed for the Future 

It might sound like it, but Scott & Scott isn’t a law firm. In the trucking community, they’re known as two of this era’s most prominent leaders of industry as well as the Ontario Trucking Association. And now one Scott, who has dedicated much of the last decade fostering the OTA Education Foundation (OTAEF), is passing the baton to the other, who promises to continue its notable successes. 

The latter Scott – Scott Tilley, president of Tandet – recently took over as chair of the OTAEF — the trucking industry’s scholarship charity — from JD Smith & Sons’ Scott Smith, who has led the foundation since 2005 (he served as a director before that).   

Smith’s late father, company patriarch Doug Smith, was one of the founding members of the foundation in 1958, with the mission of providing assistance to Ontario post-secondary students, regardless of their field of study, who have an affiliation with the trucking industry and have demonstrated their commitment to academic success and community service. 

Since 2007, the OTAEF has issued over 570 scholarships to students totalling $745,000 through general scholarships and endowed scholarships, while working to champion the industry and enlighten Ontario university and college students to the economic importance of a prosperous trucking industry, as well as encouraging them to consider or promote potential job opportunities in the trucking industry to their peers.

Scott Smith

Reflecting on his time as chair, Scott Smith says he’s extremely proud of the expansion of the OTAEF and its support for the student-children or grandchildren of industry employees, specifically over the last decade as tuition costs have grown by a whopping 33 percent.  

“Since I have been involved as chair, we have achieved many goals, and perhaps not some others; but overall, we’ve been able to give out scholarships to large numbers of students. What also occurred is we professionalized and restructured the foundation in a way that … we were able to fund the program in perpetuity and give that kind of balance and stability that year-to-year wasn’t always there previously,” says Scott Smith, who also touts the OTAEF board’s expansion and support for getting more companies involved and communicating the benefits – from a financial and image standpoint, among others – to the employees of OTA members. 

“I would say that we’ve always had a great board of very impressive and dedicated people who have given up their time and resources – people who have always been at my side like Scott Tilley and (Steed Standard Transport’s) James Steed as well as (OTAEF director) Betsy Sharples and other board members, who also have energy and vision to continue to develop and nurture the foundation. 

“The time is definitely right for some new ideas and leadership and in my new supporting (role), I’m excited to see where Scott (Tilley) leads the foundation and board over the next several years.” 

As the new chair, Scott Tilley understands the challenges ahead – especially in a post-COVID world –to not only maintain, but to expand the growth of the foundation.  

“When Scott (Smith) took over, it was to re-establish the sustainability in the funding model and long-term vision of the foundation that requires support from within the industry from those who have a strong desire to be engaged in the future of the industry and have an appreciation for the role of education,” says Tilley. “I think that’s really important and the sheer fact that educating people, who perhaps do not have the same access to funding as others, is another key piece to pass on to the next generation that enters the workforce.”  

Scott Tilley

Going forward, Tilley thinks there’s an opportunity to enhance the endowed scholarships beyond a single contributor model to a group system where businesses can be in a position to band together and collectively create a combined endowment fund that builds gradually over several years as opposed to an “all at once large donation.” 

Furthermore, Tilley plans on scoping the idea of trying to expand the program nationally, as a pan-Canadian opportunity connected to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, by involving carriers across Canada to support education and the industry’s image and potential careers. Additionally, he thinks there’s opportunities to solicit new ideas from the industry’s emerging leaders and younger generation by more closely involving the OTA’s Next Generation program.

It’s not lost on Tilley the world has changed since COVID and that some traditional stages for direct fundraising – like the OTA Convention or recreation events such as golf tournaments – might need to be adapted. 

“We do have some significant challenges on the general scholarship side because that’s where that fundraising comes from, so we’re going to modify some things at least this year,” he says. “In the world we live in today, we certainly have the ability to put out those requests electronically and, yes, it’ll be different; and it might be difficult to rise to the top because there will be a lot of people doing this kind of fundraising. But as an industry we have done okay during the pandemic – certainly compared to a lot of other industries – so we’re still in the position to put out a similar number of scholarships both at the university and college level.” 

Despite the financial hardships COVID has placed on all businesses, it’s undoubtably put much more stress on working families, who are now more challenged than ever in savings for their children’s educations.  

“Certainly, you can argue (the role) of the foundation is as critical as ever. We’re going to be very direct and ask people to help in a year where so many people have been challenged,” says Tilley. “We do believe there is a recognition that giving back is a good thing and will look to our (members) to be generous and support the system in these critical times.” 

Scott Smith agrees with those sentiments but has no doubt the trucking industry – as it has in so many instances and causes – will step up and rise to the occasion. 

“A lot can be achieved by just giving a little. If everyone gave a little, we could achieve quite a lot for deserving young people in our communities.” 

To learn more about the education foundation, click here. 

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