Dr Julie Mills, CEO and Principal of Milton Keynes College, Joins the Board of Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership

Fri 12 Sep 2014

Interview with Dr Julie Mills
Having the principal of a further education college on the board of a business lobby group might not have seemed a natural fit, perhaps even 10 years ago?
But today Milton Keynes College is a business focused centre of learning with a £65 million per annum turnover, meeting the needs of its students and city employers. The Principal and Chief Executive Dr Julie Mills has considerable academic knowledge and also a hands on experience of industry.
She says she is delighted to accept an invitation to join the board of Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership.
“A college principal might not be automatically invited on the board of a body like MK Business Leaders and I see my joining as an endorsement of the work we have been doing to make MK College more open to business.
“We don’t make profits but if we don’t generate a surplus we have less to invest, we also have public service duties and charitable status - so it all gets a bit schizophrenic. But our primary function is to deliver education as a public service while meeting the skills requirements of employers and the community,” she says.
Julie left school at 17 starting work in the civil service, then had bookkeeping and finance roles for SMEs. Her parents ran a precision engineering company in Luton, which she says gave her a grounding in business. When they retired in 2000 she and her brother took it over and she maintains close working links.
Her academic career began with an Open University degree at age 21. A tutor, who also worked in adult education, told Julie he did not have anyone to take a bookkeeping class.
“I thought ‘in for a penny’, went along, took the class and loved it. I acquired teaching qualifications which then got me into adult education and then into further education,” she said.
Julie has a Master’s in Education Management and a Doctorate, also from the OU, which was gained while researching the management of groups in offender learning programmes. That helped when MK College, where she had become Deputy-Principal, re-shaped its model of delivering such programmes within the justice system.
It now runs 35 schemes, a third of the total in England, which are generating a surplus for the college.
Julie became Principal in January 2011 and has strengthened the college’s links with business, finding out what employers want from young people and how all stakeholders can help deliver it.  “It is a collaborative process,” she says.
Collaboration is what drew Julie to MK Business Leaders saying its representation at decision making tables across Milton Keynes is very important. She says everyone brings something to the membership or the board.
“I bring my experience of younger people and an interest in promoting business and leadership, enterprise and start-ups. I also bring access to a range of areas, including government policy which shapes how business can engage with education.
Julie says it is still early days with MK Business Leaders and she is listening and learning but looking ahead she hopes it will continue to be open to innovation, not be exclusive and welcome diversity in business activity.
“We should celebrate the richness of Milton Keynes’ business community including age, gender and ethnic background. Joining MK Business Leaders is a great opportunity and I am very pleased to be involved.”
Dr Mills was talking to Steve Larner for the MK Business Leaders’ Newsletter (Summer 2014).

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