Meet The Team

Alex Birks - CEO

Alex Birks joined ATHE as Chief Executive in November 2017 and works from ATHE’s head office in Norwich in the UK, an operational hub co-ordinating a network of associates and supporting 200 centres in over 45 countries.  

Alex’s earlier career provided a broad base of commercial experience managing multi-£m Government and private sector accounts for The Stationery Office Group.

Following completion of an MBA at Henley Business School, majoring on the key factors for successful business transformation at The British Library, Alex worked as a management consultant producing strategic plans for the National Construction College and parent organisation CITB.  This led to Alex’s appointment to head strategy for the £300m national training body.

Further leadership roles at CITB followed involving new ventures and technology development, culminating in delivery of a pan-industry skills strategy for construction.  Alex also headed CITB’s Standards & Qualifications department, engaging with governments, regulators and awarding bodies nationally.

Alex’s 18 years senior management experience in vocational education working in a regulatory environment has translated well into his role as ATHE’s Chief Executive and Responsible Officer accountable to Ofqual.    

Dave Foster - Quality and Assessment Manager.

Prior to joining ATHE Dave had a career in the Police Service and, following retirement, was a partner in a business consultancy company, providing tailored interventions and business solutions for a range of private companies and public organisations to develop individual, team and organisational performance. Dave has subsequently worked for a number of awarding organisations in various roles including quality assurance, regulation and assessment.

Ben Jones - Head of Information Systems

Ben Jones is a full stack systems developer and software engineer with over 20 years’ experience developing enterprise solutions for a number of companies including one of the largest IT retailers in East Anglia. After qualifying through Cambridge University in 1997 Ben has gone on to support people, companies and institutions in realising, planning, developing and implementing their IT infrastructure. He has been working with ATHE since 2010 initially as a consultant, developing ATHE’s IT qualifications and now Heads ATHE’s Digital vision and strategy. His latest project has been developing ATHE’s bespoke enterprise system supporting staff, associates and centres globally.

Leanne Dunn - Customer Services Executive

Originally from North Lanarkshire, Leanne completed her secondary education with particular successes in English, History and Home Economics, after a move to Norwich she began her career in the customer service sector.

On joining this sector, Leanne has successfully completed an NVQ in customer service.

The skills and experience Leanne gained from her role at her previous employer were particularly relevant in her successful application to join ATHE as Customer Services Executive in October 2019 – particularly her knowledge of her e-commerce and customer services related work.

Since joining ATHE Leanne has had the opportunity to become involved in marketing and finance activities alongside her customer service duties and looks forward to further developing in her role with ATHE’s support and encouragement.          

Jacqui Brunton-Douglas - Qualifications Development Manager

Jacqui joined ATHE as QDM in May 2017. Jacqui manages the development, delivery and continuous improvement of ATHE’s portfolio of qualifications, to meet the needs of ATHE’s qualifications strategy and customers, and to assure compliance with regulatory requirements.

Jacqui has worked across the educational and regulatory landscape for the last 17 years, previously as Qualifications Manager within an Awarding Organisation specialising in health and fitness and as Standards & Qualifications Developer for CITB, the Sector Skills Council for Construction. As Operations Manager for SummitSkills, the Sector Skills Council for the Building Services Engineering Sector, she specialised in the development of National Occupational Standards and Apprenticeships, leading on Apprenticeship reform and working closely with the Trailblazer employer groups to help them develop new Apprenticeship Standards.  Linked to this, on behalf of the Trailblazer lead for the Plumbing and Heating Apprenticeship Standard, Jacqui presented to employers, professional institutions and HEIs at the House of Lords, sharing updates on the reform and progress on development of the new Standard for the industry.

Internationally Jacqui represented the UK Construction Sector in the Build Up Skills UK Project, a European wide initiative to develop a 2020 Skills Roadmap to meet the 2020 EU Energy Efficiency Targets.  Jacqui regularly liaised with EU project partners and presented project updates at EU conferences in Brussels.

This variety of national and international qualification related projects working with a range of stakeholders has prepared Jacqui well for her role at ATHE, where she manages a diverse range of qualifications to meet broad sector requirements and specific client needs.

Karen Hawes ATHE - Manager

Karen Hawes is an experienced HR professional who joined ATHE in 2017 from a retail, hospitality and manufacturing background. Karen is a qualified Mental Health First Aider and has studied CIPD level 5 over the last few years and now continuing with level 6 in HR Management. She currently resides in Norfolk with her children after living several years in both Oxford and London.