7 September 2001

Life in the fast lane

Fast cars, multi-million £

sponsorship deals and a

chance to rub shoulders with

the rich and famous – not

the career goal of most

agricultural college

students, but Jeremy Hunt

was in for a few surprises

when he visited Myerscough

College in Lancashire

SOMETHING very sexy is going on at Myerscough College – stick your head into one of the agricultural engineering workshops and you will find a group of students hard at it.

If you want thrills, glamour and a career that is, literally, in the fast lane look no further. As the afternoon sun pours in through the workshops open door, it is clear that these students are in their element. And who wouldnt be.

As five strapping lads manually hoist the entire bodyshell of a nifty-looking sports car off its chassis, another student tinkers with the ignition of a vehicle on the ramp revving the engine to a near deafening roar.

Remembering that this campus is an educational mecca for all things farming, animal and rural, there is something rather surreal about this workshop scene. Not a tractor in sight, but this is no ordinary farm college workshop. These workbenches are nurturing hot-property, the next generation of highly qualified young men and women whose expertise will underpin the multi-billion £ British motorsport industry.

Programme leader Lance Butters is one of the team of eight staff in charge of this radical but hugely popular innovation in career training now being offered at the college.

He smiles confidently when asked about the prospects for students training for a formal qualification in motorsports: "They are guaranteed more than a job when they finish, they will have a successful career in a sports industry that is expanding at a phenomenal rate."

For the uninitiated, the term motorsport embodies almost any motor driven machine that travels competitively at speed. It includes everything from scrambling and rallying at club level to professional circuit racing up to Formula 1. News that racing ace Michael Schumacher has just signed a new contract worth £25m shows the financial clout of this industry.

But the reason why every aspiring motorsport student should grab the phone and enrol on a course even before coming to the end of this article, is the fact that Britain is considered to be the world centre for motorsport. And to make job prospects even sweeter it is an industry with a turnover of £4.5bn.

Impressive though that is, the turnover has doubled in the past three years suggesting that British motorsport is only just moving into top gear.

Aware of the need to provide a constant source of personnel to bring the wide range of skills demanded by this vibrant and highly commercial sport, the Motorsport Industry Association has become involved in the co-ordination of formal qualifications. Myerscough were asked to take up the challenge and now have strong connections with the industry and a comprehensive range of courses.

This sport is booming at such a rate that engineering graduates are no longer sufficient in number to meets its needs.

Specifically-trained

Says Lance Butters: "There is a 40% shortfall of potential employees for the motorsport industry, and not just engineers; we are talking about two types of people.

"The industry needs specifically-trained graduates in mechanical and electronic engineering, but there is a big demand for personnel with more broadly-based training covering actual mechanics and even specialists in the logistics of motorsports.

"The logistical and management side of the sport offers very good job prospects."

Myerscough is offering motorsports courses to provide First Diploma (one year), National Diploma (two years) and Higher National Diploma (two years) qualifications with degree courses in place by later in 2001.

The HND course, being taught in conjunction with the University of Central Lancashire, covers the motorsport industry, engineering science and design, manufacturing and fabrication as well as electronic and analytical methods.

Motorsport logistics

The BSc course in motorsport logistics provides the highest qualification giving successful graduates a range of opportunities to develop their careers.

The course fact sheet is effusive in its description of motorsports glamour: "The involvement in flamboyant multi-disciplinary teams, on and off the track, is highly demanding and requires a high level of management ability plus an eclectic background in motorsport, engineering, logistics and sponsorship."

It is no wonder that the first diploma courses – which only started last September – have attracted 52 male and female students to Myerscough. The courses have been specially written for the college in close association with all sectors of the motorsport industry.

The college has a team of several competition rally cars as well as a Formula Ford. Although involved in the practicalities of preparing cars for competitions and providing the support team – including acting as co-driver – students are not allowed to drive.

"The colleges motto of learning through practice is as relevant to motorsports as it has been to all the other more conventional agricultural and livestock related courses at Myerscough.

"The motorsports students are an integral part of the racing team. It is their job to get the cars on the track. They are doing it for real. We are out to win, not just to practise," says Mr Butters.