Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), the UK’s leading premium global automotive business, is committed to making a difference in the community. “We have a vision to create and maintain excellent community relations with local and regional communities where JLR designs and manufactures. Employee involvement is the cornerstone of business commitment to the social and economic regeneration of communities and at JLR, we are dedicated to this principle,” affirms Mike Wright, executive director of JLR.
A key area that JLR invests in is education and knowledge. In an initiative launched in 2000, the company forged an alliance with schools in England. It has invested in five Education Business Partnership centres to provide learning facilities and resources for schoolchildren, as part of its Education Business Partnership with the Birmingham, Coventry, Warwickshire, Solihull and Liverpool Education Authorities. To this end, JLR makes an annual contribution worth around £350,000.
The aim is to enable children from primary and secondary schools to learn more about engineering, manufacturing and automotive businesses through a number of activities which are linked to the national curriculum. This initiative gives children a chance to learn outside the classroom by visiting factories and plants, where JLR employees volunteer to talk about their areas of expertise. Employees also volunteer within schools to help students with reading, mathematics, business and engineering.
The rationale behind establishing these centres was the realisation that there was a dearth of young people choosing a career in engineering and manufacturing in the UK. It was felt that exposing youngsters to the world of engineering and manufacturing at an early age would encourage them to pursue a career in these fields. Poised for further growth, JLR will need a large number of engineers to staff its own operations. “The programme gives the children the hands-on opportunity to work with equipment that actually manufactures the vehicles. That generates much enthusiasm,” says Les Ratcliffe, head of community relations at JLR.
The Jaguar or Land Rover vehicles form the basis for learning. The science programme teaches children about the different materials used in the making of a car, while the geography module talks about the region where it has been sourced from. “Jaguar Land Rover sources material from around the world. We take them to the shop floor and they see materials with the bar code with the country’s name on it and are able to relate better,” says Mr Ratcliffe.
The maths programme allows them to use numbers in a manufacturing environment. It teaches primary school students basic arithmetic by getting them to deconstruct cars in terms of the number of wheels, wipers etc, and getting progressively more complex for older students.
In addition, students are also supported through scholarships that are linked to local universities and colleges of higher education. The centres also hold competitions and offer rewards to meritorious students.
Besides offering these inputs, each centre also offers additional resources, based on its area of expertise. The centres at Coventry and Gaydon are slightly inclined towards engineering. Castle Bromwich, Solihull and Halewood are inclined towards production and robotics.
What the centres have in common, however, is their work ethic, their desire to present the school curriculum in a non-traditional format and the seriousness with which they seek to share their world with young people. JLR’s education programme is very dynamic, with feedback from students and schools being used to reorganise the modules. External feedback is also used to fine-tune the programme. In 2011, 20,000 young people and nearly 2,000 teachers visited the five EBPCs. Around 85 percent of the visitors are from local communities within 30 miles of the centres.
Besides the work done at the centres, JLR also offers a Sons and Daughters programme. This allows employees to bring their children to work for a day. The children go to one of the centres, go through a programme of learning and then they join their parent in their workplace for the rest of the day.
Other activities include summer schools for employees’ children. Some centres try to offer family programmes in which the parents and children learn things together. This activity is conducted in conjunction with the local council.
JLR also offers 14 to 16 year-olds an opportunity to learn about careers in engineering, manufacturing and business related subjects. The idea is to offer youngsters meaningful work experience which will aid their careers in the future.
An independent organisation, Business in the Community, conducts an audit programme called the Corporate Responsibility Index, which awards a CommunityMark to businesses that measure up to a certain standard in their community initiatives. The CommunityMark is widely recognised as the national standard of excellence for community investment. Jaguar Land Rover has become the first car manufacturer in the UK to receive this commendation. It is also one of only four organisations to receive the award in 2011.
More than a decade after embarking on this initiative, JLR has the satisfaction of knowing that thousands of children have rewritten their futures, inspired by an initial spark at one of the centres.