On 15th April 2005, MG Rover went in to administration resulting in the loss of over 6,000 jobs and more than 30,000 jobs lost in the supply chain. To put that in to perspective, the school I went to had 1,400 pupils attending it at the time. 700 of those pupils had parents affected by the collapse. That was just one school in Birmingham.
It wasn’t the first time that Rover’s future looked uncertain. In 2000 BMW looked to offload Rover, having already sold Land Rover to Ford and deciding to keep the Mini brand for themselves. Rover was sold to the Phoenix Consortium. Only to strip the company of it’s assets and stole the lives and futures of the workers who stayed with the company.
At the time of Land Rover’s sale to Ford, staff would often choose where to work. Some would do a stint at Solihull building Land Rovers, then go across to Longbridge for a change of scene. So when the sale went ahead, staff at both plants had a choice. You can either go to work for Land Rover, or you can work for MG Rover. People made their choice, and for some it paid off and for others it didn’t. But the future was bright in 2000. No one could’ve thought what would happen in 2005 would actually happen at that point.
The Apprenticeship at MG Rover
Like most of the world, right now I’m in lockdown. I’m able to work from home, which is a benefit as it means I can spend my lunch time working on Paddy the Corolla or Nikita the Lada. But in a weird way it also gives you time to think, and dwell on certain decisions or events that have happened to you. During the past week while perusing Facebook, a post on an MG Rover mentioned how it had been 15 years since MG Rover went bust. It got me thinking back to 16 years ago, when I was 16 and about to leave school, and how my life could’ve been very different right now.
In Year 11 – which is the last year of school for us in the UK – we’re about to head out in to the big wild world. For years up until this point I had always thought I would go in to car design, or at the very least some sort of engineering role. I had gone to an open evening at MG Rover which was held at Longbridge. It was incredible. It was so exciting to me as a teenager, walking around various MG Rover cars. They had the MG ZS touring car they were using for racing there, and it looked incredible.
A period of time went by after this, and I had the apprenticeship form filled out and sent away. I then changed my mind. I was in an ICT class and our teacher was talking to us about computer networking, and how you could get big money doing it if you got a job at a bank. The money didn’t grab my attention, it was the idea of how networking worked. How it was the backbone of the internet. That got me really interested. I enrolled on a Cisco CCNA course at Matthew Boulton college.
A Change Of Scene
A year goes by, it’s now 2005, and I’m approaching the end of my first year of this CCNA course. I’m not enjoying it. I loved the tutors, I loved the people I was learning with. It’s just the subject was really dry and didn’t engage me. One afternoon, on my lunch, I go with a friend to the career’s fare they had in the hall. In the hall were MG Rover, and at that moment I decided I’d go for an apprenticeship with them like I should’ve done in the first place. I got the same pack again and brought it home.
That was 14th April 2005. The next day was 15th April 2005. I wasn’t in college that day, so it mean I could wake up at 1pm. Why? Well I was a teenager, single, with a bad addiction to Championship Manager. For what it’s worth, I was on a full unbeaten season with Aston Villa at the time. I went downstairs for breakfast/lunch, turned the TV on and the BBC reported MG Rover’s collapse. The application form was on the table next to the TV. I looked at the TV, looked at the form, and just thought bugger. Got something to eat, went upstairs, and lost to Arsenal.
The title of this post is “What Might Have Been”. When I saw that post the other day, it’s all I could think about really. What might have happened to me if I had enrolled on to the apprenticeship the year before? What might have happened to me if MG Rover didn’t go bust?
Who knows. I am a firm believer in that things happen for a reason, and when a door isn’t closed without a window being opened first. I didn’t end up in networking, I fell in to software development. It’s allowed me to pursue different interests, like photography, woodwork and now car mechanics. It’s also taught me that I probably would’ve hated being a mechanic for a living. But mechanic work is really the complete opposite to software development, so both give me enough of a break from the other to keep me at my best.
I think about those men and women who spent their lives working for MG Rover. Quite often they’d have been there since they themselves left school, and you would have generations of the same family working there. What happened to them? They worked there for it all to be taken away and replaced with what? Yet another shopping park. And those who worked for the suppliers, indirect casualties of the greed and ineptitude of a group of men who didn’t have the lives of their workforce at the forefront of their mind. They chased the pound coins, and walked away with good pensions and a comfortable life. Something those that worked for MG Rover wouldn’t be able to say they had.