Struggles give boss passion to help city’s young

Chair of E3 Bradford, Paul Mackie, holds the E3 Bradford logo.  Photo: Lorne Campbell/Guzelian
Chair of E3 Bradford, Paul Mackie, holds the E3 Bradford logo. Photo: Lorne Campbell/Guzelian
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FOR Paul Mackie, getting an education was no mean feat.

While he was top of the class where sport was concerned, academic success was more challenging.

He struggled, unknowingly, with dyslexia, until the age of 28 when realised he was naturally left-handed rather than right-handed – a discovery which gave him a new lease of life.

Today, the chairman of construction consultancy firm Rex Procter & Partners and vice-president of Bradford Chamber of Commerce is chairing a new education initiative, named E3 Bradford, the aim of which is to create a new enterprise curriculum for education providers across the district.

Mr Mackie said: “We want to produce an enterprise curriculum we could take into every school in Bradford and whether you’re looking at Key Stage 1 or a particular lesson, there’s something in there as to how that can be aligned to enterprise and how it can lead a young person into work.”

Business-driven E3 Bradford is seeking the views of companies and schools in the area to help put together the document, which could take two years to be completed.

Mr Mackie, who has been involved in several other organisations connected to young people in the district over the past 15 years, describes his school-aged self as “educationally challenged” and told how he was brought up “under fairly difficult circumstances” after his father left when he was three.

Mr Mackie left school after passing few exams but went on to gain qualifications in quantity surveying. His career includes a stint in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s, along with roles at a number of quantity surveying firms. He got a degree in quantity surveying in 1988 and joined Rex Partners as a senior surveyor in 1990.

“I am now very fortunate to be in a position to be able to help develop, inspire and empower young people to make the most of their opportunities whatever they may be”, he said.

Mr Mackie is particularly passionate about closing the gap between what he calls ‘the haves’ and ‘the have nots’ and says business has a role to play in addressing the issue.

He explained: “Those people that have, ie they have either got solid parental background, come from a family of influence or have got money, so they fall into the middle class bracket, 60-70 per cent of those people will end up in the top jobs in the UK.

“So what happens to the rest of the people, when the majority fall into the ‘have not’s?

“They get forgotten about, they fall into NEETs (not in education, employment, or training), they get forgotten about at school because the focus is on achievement... the issue is that the opportunity for ‘the have nots’ should be exactly the same as the opportunity for ‘the haves’.”

Finding ways of inspiring young people is key, he said. “I definitely come from a ‘have not’ but I have achieved. I’ve achieved I think through self-determination, through commitment... my grandfather was an inspiration to me because he started his own business and I looked up to him.

“I think if we can give the young people to look up to, those that haven’t, and go into schools and say to them, look there is opportunity, just because you might not be academically clever, just because you might come from a broken home, just because you might not be able to buy a new pair of shoes every six months that doesn’t mean to say you can’t get the top jobs in the country.”

E3 Bradford, a £300,000 initiative which stands for Education, Enterprise, Employment, is part of Bradford Council’s £7.7m Get Bradford Working programme and is supported by Bradford Chamber of Commerce.

The team behind E3 is seeking to enlist an army of business ambassadors and enterprise champions to get involved in pushing the scheme forwards and sharing their needs for the future workforce across the district.

The E3 Bradford team is also planning a ‘work inspiration week’ in 2013, when a call will be made to businesses to contact their local school, open up their doors and invite pupils in.

The hope is that eventually E3 Bradford might be rolled out to other areas of the country.

Mr Mackie said: “We (in the UK) are already well behind other European countries in terms of our academic achievement.

“We are in a global market competing against everywhere in the world and unless we can get up to the level academically we will fall even further behind.”

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Right mix of skills ‘not just academic’

PAUL Mackie, chair of E3 Bradford, said it is important that young people build up the right skills so they are prepared for the world of work.

He said: “I think certainly robust academic achievement is fundamental to being able to find decent work, but in isolation there’s no guarantee of getting a decent job or being able to make the right choices in life.

“In addition to academic achievement, young people need to understand about the cultural and behavioural issues, they need to understand about respect and language, they need to understand that attitude and motivation are key ingredients that employers are looking for at whatever level.”