National Motorsport Academy

A Time for Celebration

There’s a lot of frivolity planned here in the UK this week. As Queen and country celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, NMA tutor Roger has started getting nostalgic….

After all this talk of the Jubilee, I started thinking about my own work anniversary. Queen Elizabeth II has been in her job for 70 years, so I started to wonder how long I’ve been in this game. (Feels like a lifetime to me. Ed.) As it turns out, last month my own anniversary came and went – it was 14 years ago that I arrived in the education arena. A comparatively short time but so much has already changed in education in those years. 14 years ago, a fully online degree in something as complex as engineering was unthinkable.

Welcome to the Asylum

It’s nearly 7 years since the NMA accepted the first students on to their online motorsport engineering degree. As one of the original tutors from the “day we opened the doors”, I can say that what was quite a ballsy concept to start with has been shown to be the way forward for adult, ‘still-at-work’ learners.

Originally, the idea of targeting students already in motorsport or allied trades and asking them, with what little spare time they had, to study for a motorsport engineering qualification, seemed absolutely potty. Many motorsport engineers already spend most of the year away from their families, so asking them to take more time out seemed, to some, unreasonable.

We knew the demand was there. We were constantly told about the carbon fibre ceiling (“What?” Ed. It is a play on words, the ‘glass ceiling’? You know, cannot progress past the glass ceiling for whatever reason, but adapted for motorsport. “Oh, I see what you have done” Ed.)

As motorsport became ever more professional, and commercial, an awfully large number of people found that despite 10, 15, 20 years of specialised employment, they could not move jobs or get promoted because they hadn’t validated their experience with an academic qualification. Not matter how unfair this sounds, it’s true.

Enter the National Motorsport Academy (How do I do fanfares and trumpets on a page please?) Anyone who attends NMA HQ is welcomed by the management team ‘to the asylum’. But sometimes it pays to side with the loonies. These mad men and women have created something totally unique in motorsport. A way to qualify in the industry without even having to take time out. They understand the industry inside out. They know how much it will cost financially and timewise to get that qualification so decided to deliver it online. All the tutors are dyed in the wool motorsport engineers; whether that is data, mechanical or aero and so a program was put together to give the “lost generation” a chance to progress or move.

Has it been successful? I want to shout from the rooftops how successful it has been! We have now had over 500 students start their degree – that’s over 70 students per year – twice as many as most traditional, bricks and mortar Universities. We have added a Master’s level qualification, a Business School for the new Motorsport MBA and we have or have had students from EVERY, and I mean EVERY type of motorsport there is. We have also had students from every continent bar Antarctica (What motorsport do they do in Antarctica? Ed. Check out Valkyrie Racing’s Porsche 356!) and 48 countries.

On a Mission

There is another standout accomplishment this year as well. Mission Motorsport. I believe that they are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year and what a job they have done. We started getting enquiries very early on from Mission members and also from people in the Forces that were coming to the end of their time and transitioning out into civvy world. I was in wonderment when I heard their stories, I could not believe that many were finding it difficult to secure even a weekend warrior (no pun intended) place given their “experience”.

I will leave you with a Mission Motorsport story – The NMA had a stand at a Motorsport Industry Association Jobs Fair at Silverstone, and we knew from prior arrangements that some MM members were coming to have a chat. Anyway, one particular chap was late for the appointment and I was really disappointed because he sounded so genuine and keen on the phone.

About 35 minutes after the allotted slot he introduced himself and apologised profusely for his lateness. What he then told me had me gasping like a goldfish out of its bowl…..

He had been early so rather than waste the time he went onto a few of the other stands. In the Army he had a speciality that when he saw its motorsport equivalent, he felt “Woooo, this is the place for me”.

No names (to protect the guilty) but it was a well known gearbox company and the MM chaps’ speciality was gearboxes and diffs……………on tanks. A match made on track was assured.

Having introduced himself and said what, when and where he did his stuff, including his “active” service (with real tanks, real live rounds, real enemy and, unfortunately, real casualties) he was getting on fine, until,

The representative of the gearbox company stated that although he felt his experience was good, albeit on really big gearboxes, he wasn’t sure whether the chap would be able to cope with the immense pressure of the pitlane!

Our chap, maintaining his cool, calm, exterior asked whether it was life or death pressure in the pitlane…the representative, with a completely straight face, and just not getting it, said, “Yes, every second counts”

“Hmm, every second counts, I agree” said our man, “especially when some sniper is trying to blow your f….g head off while you get the bl….y tank going”

I am so pleased to tell that this gentlemen passed his degree and now works for a different gearbox company.

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