Make it in Great Britain Industry Champion – Alex Burns

Alex Burns - Williams Grand Prix Holdings

Alex Burns

Chief Executive Officer, Williams

Alex Burns is the chief executive officer of Williams Grand Prix Holdings. He plays a lead role in the management of the company and drives many of the projects to develop new business from the team’s racing technology. Alex holds a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from Imperial College and an MBA from Cranfield University.

How has your company engaged with young people and the community to improve the image of manufacturing?

We offer a “Taster Week” to secondary school students titled “Five days in the life of Williams F1”. This programme is designed to provide an insight into the diverse range of skills and occupations required to produce a Formula One racing car.

We have also run community projects to help provide our Race to Learn teaching software to local classrooms, with company staff visiting schools in the Oxfordshire area. We also provide show cars to local events and offer ad hoc support to local charities. We will be hosting an Open Day at our factory with the MIA later this year.

What have you personally contributed to help improve the image of manufacturing?

Over the years, I have engaged many apprentices and other young people in manufacturing. I have advised several Universities on the content of their engineering courses and helped with F1 in Schools and Formula Student, both of which promote teamwork and extra-curricular learning.

I have encouraged staff at Williams to communicate their passion for manufacturing through our work experience and student placement programmes and to sign up as STEM Ambassadors. With others, I have contributed to several television programmes about the work we do at Williams.

I volunteered to be an industry champion for the Make it in Great Britain Campaign because I want to contribute more to the important work of inspiring the next generation of engineers and manufacturers who will build on our rich heritage in these areas.

What more needs to be done?

There is much talk about how Britain ‘doesn’t make things anymore’ and this misconception can be quite disheartening for those considering a career in engineering or manufacturing. Britain continues to lead the way in a number of exciting industries – with motorsport a key example. The fact that 16 of the 24 cars on the Formula One grid this year are built in the UK should be a source of national pride.

At Williams we are committed to do more to showcase the many exciting career opportunities that we have in high performance engineering in the UK. The launch of Race to Learn in conjunction with Cambridge University Press is a good example of this and we now need to embrace modern communication methods to build on this strong start, along with supporting Make it in Great Britain.