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A memorable year if ever there was one

Dr Julie Mills, chief executive and group principal of Milton Keynes College, reflects on a very different year and the lessons learned from it.

WE WON’T be forgetting 2020 in a hurry. Only 12 months ago it felt like every overheard conversation was about Brexit and the election.  Little did we dream that reports of a small cluster of cases of pneumonia in an unfamiliar part of China would come to impact all our lives so dramatically.

It would be so easy to write off 2020 as an unmitigated disaster but I am hopeful that when we are able to fully live our lives again that we will look back on it as a time when great things grew from our reaction to the pandemic.

At Milton Keynes College we’ve learned a lot of good things about each other. There’s a new found respect and admiration for specialists. 

Everyone is in awe of the IT services team who got us up and running online with incredible skill, patience and enthusiasm. They in return have had an insight into how hard the teaching staff work, and both groups now know so much more about what the others do. 

The same is true for the estates team and the finance people who had to work out how we would meet the costs involved with remote working while people services have been closely involved in all the tumultuous changes to how we work.  

Everyone has a far greater sense of what others contribute and it’s been really positive in terms of making us feel like we’re all working towards the same end.  

Milton Keynes College

From one end of the college to the other I’m full of gratitude and admiration for the way people have adapted to make it possible to carry on delivering meaningful education and training to all those students who rely on us to help them build their life chances.

I celebrated 30 years at the college this year (and yes I was incredibly young when I started) and I’m delighted to say that in spite of everything there are some real positives to come out of 2020.

We’ve signed off with the Department for Education on our licence for the South Central Institute of Technology at Bletchley, Reading and Oxford and we’re looking forward to seeing it really take off in 2021.

We had some spectacular successes at the National BAME Apprenticeship Awards with Kimmy Kimani winning in the Legal and Professional Services Category and being named Apprentice of the Year. 

Raginee Scudamore won the award for Retail, Hospitality and Tourism and our friends and apprenticeship partners, PJ Care, were named as the Employee Winner in Health, Medical and Social care while one of the apprentices we share was nominated in the same category.


Student of the Year was an incredible online success where among all the other inspiring winners, Mickey Dorasin won the overall award. The theme for this year’s event was Reasons to be Diverse and while I’m proud to say that providing opportunities for all regardless of who they are is and always will be a central guiding principle and ambition of this college.  

2020 was the year that Black Lives Matter assumed global prominence. We saw the protests around the death of George Floyd and the disproportionate impact of Coviud on minority communities.  These events have made us more aware and more determined to combat racism in all its forms and there are conversations around the subject happening now which have never happened before.  

If I have one overriding ambition for 2021, it is that the passion and commitment to further the cause of equality does not dim but rather we look for new ways not just to speak but to act to make the world a better place.

As chair of Women Leaders UK I was also thrilled to take part in that organisation’s annual awards, an on-line and still fabulous evening, where some highly impressive and accomplished women were recognised for their amazing achievements.  

Hilary Chipping

I was recently at a board meeting of SEMLEP, the local enterprise partnership for the region, and looking around the room there were three members who had all been previously recognised by Women Leaders.

Shalom Lloyd of Naturally Tribal, won in the Entrepreneur category in 2018. Dr Kerry Mashford OBE won Energy & Environment in 2015 and Hilary Chipping won for Public Services in 2015, was entered into the CBI National First Woman Award and promptly won that too.

Hilary is chief executive of SEMLEP today. People can be sceptical about the value of awards but I like to think there is evidence here that highlighting the efforts of good people is always worth doing.

Even with the welcome arrival of the various vaccines, we won’t be free from the effects of Covid next year and everyone will be braced for what will inevitably be a difficult time economically and socially.  

I hope fiercely that the good things which have come out of 2020 in spite of all its tragedy will last for many years to come and help to make us more efficient, more co-operative, kinder people.


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