Well, that caused a bit of a stir didn’t it? Last week, I wrote about the large number of motorsport jobs on offer at the MIA Jobs Fair and our ‘virtual postbag’ has never been so full! It’s always great when a blog stirs up some great conversations and becomes a talking point and many of the points and issues raised in those posts are very interesting and thought provoking. So as promised, I have spoken to a couple of the teams, recruiters and some of our people here at the NMA to get some comments and answers to the questions raised.
Motorsport Snakes & Ladders
One of the recurring points made has been that teams expect everyone else to do the training so they don’t have to do it themselves. We asked a team principal for his thoughts and it wasn’t a long answer! “Yes, that is true” he then added “Of course, we will teach the recruits our methodology and our systems but, frankly, we are hiring highly skilled, highly educated people, often from other teams, so we expect them to be ready to join us” When pressed harder, he added “What I have said is true for the track facing personnel, but it is slightly different for the staff at the factory. In there we have much more proprietary software and equipment so there is much more training going on, but it is still not what I would call a training program”.
So where does that leave someone needing training? High-end motorsport is a fast moving, cutting edge industry and it seems that training is seen as a waste of time and effort by some employers. Their solution? Buy in experience!
Let us not forget that our industry is actually a vocation as well as a career. Sometimes, investing in yourself means starting lower down the ladder, even if you are over-qualified or in some cases, over-experienced. I think of it as similar to a game of Snakes & Ladders…… You might start at the bottom but after a relatively short time in the game you can see yourself jumping ahead 10 places. For some this can be down to luck – being in the right place at the right time. For most, it’s down to strategy and sacrifice.
Find an Advocate
To help address some of the points raised after my last blog post, I spoke with one of the top recruiters in the motorsport industry. He puffed his chest out and stated “This is why the best candidates get recruiters to front them to companies. And equally, why companies are happy to have recruiters call them. The candidates have been made to look ready, had advice on their prospects, been given a reality check and are then presented in a professional and complimentary manner. After that it’s down to personal chemistry and interview because everything else has been pre-vetted”.
Many of the top teams don’t even advertise positions directly. This is often because they don’t have time to sift through the unqualified, inexperienced applicants who dream of working at the highest level of motorsport but don’t and probably never will have the skills needed. If you are one of the great number of people who has worked in the automotive industry for years or comes from an engineering background and has found themselves disillusioned about the opportunities the industry has to offer, you can’t go far wrong getting in touch with these specialist recruiters. Just put a search into LinkedIn for a ‘motorsport recruitment consultant’ – you’ll find loads of people to connect with. Or try Racestaff – one of the longest standing recruitment companies in the business.
Chicken & Egg
The next recurring theme is about experience. Before you all say, “Ahh, that old chestnut”, it is an important area to discuss because to many it becomes a circular argument of “How do I get experience if I can’t get a position to get some experience?”. When I raised this point with the teams and recruiters, they all came back with a couple of cold hard truths.
“We see people who think they are really something, just because they worked on their mate next door’s Nova”
“I’ve run my brother for a season of Mini grasstrack racing so I am applying for No 1 mechanic”
Like vets, jockeys, stockbrokers, industrial chemists…..and I could continue, there are more applicants than places. The key here is going the extra mile. Realising that the “vocational” side of the career must come first. And having a good dose of realism of course!
Point 1: If you really want to get into motorsport engineering, you must be prepared to invest. Whether that is time, money or sometimes both and sometimes for a considerable while. No one gets to the peak of excellence without sacrifice and personal investment.
Point 2: Do not overvalue yourself! This is not the same as allowing yourself to be taken for a ride, but be realistic. If you’re a mortgage payer or have family responsibilities and can’t afford to take a pay-cut or travel extensively, unfortunately it might not stack up at this point in time. Not all doors are open to all, all of the time. That said, there are still ways to participate or gain new skills as part of a future plan. Most of our students here at the NMA have young children yet they are able to fit their studies around their families and full-time jobs because of the flexible nature and online learning environment. Yes, they may have to sacrifice some time in the evenings or weekends but they know, when they qualify, they have a better chance of success when it comes to applying for jobs.
Lastly for this blog I’ll address the most frequent point raised in the last week.
“I’ve got 15 years’ experience in widgets and sprockets but I can’t get a better job/motorsport job/another job because they want a piece of paper. A degree, a Masters, to validate something I can do with my hands tied behind my back” We have heard this a LOT of times!
Let me tell you a story, a story that only my wife and my parents know. All my teenage years, I wanted to be a surgeon. In fact I wanted it so much that all my University applications were for Medical School. I went to interviews at all the great medical schools and I even got offers from all my applications, but there was a problem. Without exception the offers were for 4 x A at A Level. You may say “What’s the problem? Just get on and get those grades.”
The grades weren’t the problem, it was the fact that I was only doing 3 A levels that was the issue. I was stuffed before I had even started and all of my University applications were wasted. I had gotten on so well with one of the interviewers that they gave me their telephone number ‘should I need to talk’ (no email back in the Stone Age!!) So I called them and cried!
“But I would make a fantastic surgeon!!D” I said.
“I have no doubt you would have” says my interviewer “But we have so many prospective students that we can afford to turn down most of them. Nobody has said that the cleverest people make the best doctors or surgeons but we have to cull the numbers. We can take the cleverest, knowing that we have access to some of the best minds. Not all will make it, but by getting the best grades and taking more A-Levels, it means the one thing we do know is that these new students are not workshy.”
The same goes for vets and a good number of other professions and careers INCLUDING our own. Not all the jobs in the church that is Motorsport require a Masters or a degree but there are so many people want to be “in motorsport” that employers CAN demand them. This creates a huge obstacle for those currently working within the industry when they want to move or be promoted.
Now, to some of us that are seeing more scalp than hair these days, this fact might seem alien and unfair but it is progress. The employer knows that their new recruit is capable and motivated because he/she has gotten out there and done extra qualifications to upskill themselves. The department manager that has promoted someone knows that this person is made of the “right stuff” because he has enrolled or completed a degree that has allowed their elevation to greater things. It’s about dedication and passion for the job you do – these are the attributes EVERY SINGLE EMPLOYER would value over all others.
The Bottom Line
There were a number of other questions and comments but this blog would be a publishable book if I looked at each of them – maybe next time. The bottom line is… Life’s too short for regrets. So, instead of sitting there moaning that you can’t take that next step without a ‘bit of paper’ why not get that bit of paper? Part of me will always wish I’d chased down my dream. That’s one of the reasons that I love what I do here at the NMA. I get a kick out of seeing adults challenging themselves, pushing their skills to achieve greater things and pursuing a dream which some have held since being a child.
The online nature of the NMA motorsport qualifications mean that you can study from anywhere – part time, full time, as long as you complete the course within 7 years (Full BSc), 3 Years for the Final Year Top-Up or 2 years for the MSc Advanced Motorsport Engineering. Fees are also 40% lower than other Universities and can be funded by a student loan in the UK, which you don’t even have to repay unless you earn over a certain threshold.
If you already have the bit of paper but not the experience, volunteer! Again, dedication and sacrifice will get you where you want to be. Contact local teams, racetracks. There are always opportunities out there, even paid weekend work. Sometimes all you need to do is ask!
Just before I go… we were privileged to see the greatest British F1 driver ever, be crowned at the US GP. He may well go on to beat the great Schumy in titles and wins so I think for the next blog we we’ll have a look at why Lewis Hamilton is not universally feted for his skills…
Until next time.