Howard Freeman has become the first Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) employee to receive his Master of Science degree (MSc) via the company’s Technical Accreditation Scheme (TAS) which is designed to foster skills growth in partnership with academic institutions.
Having studied electrical and electronic engineering at University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland, Howard joined JLR as part of a graduate scheme in 2010. After an initial nine month period working as an electrical integration engineer, he embarked on the next phase of his education via the TAS programme, which was launched by JLR in September 2010.
With the University of Warwick as its hub, the TAS now encompasses nine universities. Howard’s studies included stints at Warwick, as well as Loughborough and Bradford, taking in eight modules in total over a two-year period.
“The modules were a background to the vehicle technology, so it covered electrical networks, electrical diagnostics, and also electrical systems design and validation,” he tells The Engineer.
Each module lasted around 10-12 weeks, with Howard taking an inital week off to attend 40 hours of lectures at a partner university alongside other JLR employees, followed by approximately 120 hours dedicated to a post-module assignment over the next three months. This work had to be completed on top of his day-to-day work for JLR, at evenings and weekends.
“It took about two years to get through the modules, and then a year and a bit to do the dissertation,” Howard says.
With the entire eight-module programme lasting over three years, it marks a significant commitment of both time and effort from both JLR and the students involved. According to Howard, however, the TAS scheme creates mutual benefits for all parties.
“It was quite interesting, because you try to relate the work that you were doing with the post-module assignment – you try to bring that learning back into the company,” he says.
“The company benefited from getting the latest research and papers, while you benefited from getting the qualifications.”
The end result is an MSc that has been fully funded by JLR, increasing the level of expertise at the company and strengthening ties with academia. Howard also believes the programme has undoubtedly had a positive impact on his JLR career, speeding up his progression within the company.
“It accelerated my development,” he says. “It also helped me to focus on what I really needed to cover as part of the graduate scheme. It was a good opportunity to actually be somewhere like JLR and to have the resources available.”
Despite having spent the past three and a half years working hard towards his MSc, Howard intends to continue his education, taking advantage of the further learning options available at JLR.
“I’ve committed to going on internal training courses,” he tells us.
“There’s a wide selection within the company that you can go on for a day. Some of them might be business-specific, some of them might be engineering-specific.”
Howard may be the first to claim a Master’s degree via the TAS, but he says there are a number of other graduates at JLR that are following closely on his heels.
“From what I’ve been told there’s a few students behind me that are just about to finish their work,” he says. “It’s something that’s catching on now.”