2015 saw the start of the Randstad Williams Engineering Academy, the first ever programme in F1 that identifies and supports the next big engineering stars of the sport. The Academy picks its students from F1 in Schools world finalists, so we sat down with Williams Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds to find out a bit more.
1. What inspired Williams to start the Randstad Williams Engineering Academy?
For many years now there have been young driver academies in F1, but there has never been an engineering equivalent to identify the brightest young engineers from around the world. Here at Williams, we’ve always put a lot of emphasis on training new talent. Take the likes of Paddy Lowe and Ross Brawn – they both started their F1 careers at Williams.
We wanted to create a new programme that identifies the best and brightest from around the world and embeds them into our organisation from an early age. The students still attend school and university – our programme supports and goes a step beyond their traditional education.
People often don’t know how they can go about getting a job with an F1 team. The Engineering Academy provides a clear path to follow for students from all nationalities and backgrounds. There’s a selfish element to this as well – we rely on great people to make great racing cars, so we want to cherry pick the next big engineering superstar and get them working at Williams rather than a rival team or company.
2. What does the Engineering Academy entail?
We run a long term programme that provides support from high school right up until the completion of their university degree. We do this in three ways. Firstly, through an e-learning curriculum we have developed with Cambridge University Press, teaching the students the fundamental principles of motorsport engineering. Secondly, we provide each student with a dedicated mentor from Williams who acts as a tutor and offers guidance and support. Thirdly, we offer practical experience to boost their skills and employability. This is where Randstad’s expertise comes in as one of the world’s leading recruitment companies. The students will be given careers advice, CV coaching, and work experience opportunities.
3. Who can apply?
When setting up the Randstad Williams Engineering Academy, we decided to work with F1 in Schools as the primary selection mechanism. We know the initiative well because Claire Williams and Rob Smedley are both patrons. I’ve always been hugely impressed by the calibre of students I’ve come into contact with.
Applications are open to anyone aged 16-18 who is competing at the F1 in Schools World Finals each year. Eligible students will receive an email inviting them to apply in July this year, and for the first stage they have to complete an application form and supply a CV.
We then choose 25 students to attend an assessment centre that will take place on Tuesday 18th October at the F1 in Schools World Finals in Austin, Texas. I’ll be leading the assessment centre and we will give the students interesting team based activities. We then choose the final ten to take part in their first year of the programme. It’s a competitive scheme, so every year that cohort of ten will be whittled down in number.
5. What are you looking for in students?
We like to see a demonstrable passion for motorsport. Taking part in F1 in Schools is already proof that they are passionate about the sport, but anything that shows that they have gone above and beyond the norm, such as volunteering to work for a local racing team, will set them apart from their peers.
Another important aspect is being able to work well in a team – F1 is very much a team sport. We have over 500 people working together to produce two cars for a race weekend so teamwork is fundamental. We want to see that they can work well with other people, get them on board with their ideas, and communicate their thoughts clearly and succinctly.
6. How are the first group of students who joined in 2015 getting on?
The programme officially began in October 2015 when the first cohort of students joined us. The students have just completed their e-learning curriculum for year one, and are about to start their end of year project. They have been able to visit our factory in the UK, and a number of the students have also visited us as guests of the team at the race track. This helps put the theory they are learning into perspective. The first eleven have been extremely impressive, which is validating our decision to work with F1 in Schools in picking our students.
If you’re competing at the F1 in Schools World Finals 2016 and are interested in applying for a place in the Randstad Williams Engineering Academy, then applications will open later this month. All World Finalists’ will receive an application form via email.
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