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MCR Pathways: the route to success

By Iain MacRitchie - Posted on 6 February 2019

A highly successful entrepreneur and businessman, Iain MacRitchie has taken time out of his career to fully dedicate to his charitable programme MCR Pathways. Here, he explains more about his work which recently saw him being named AACSB 2019 Influential Leader.

MCR Pathways is a charitable programme I set up to help improve the lives of young people, especially those in or on the edges of the care system.

My interest in helping disadvantaged young people started when I was brought in professionally to improve three failing care organisations with 90 homes, 5 schools and a foster agency. I worked hard to turn around these organisations, which were losing £500,000 per month and got them back to surplus over three years. However, despite this transformation, I saw it made no difference to the outcomes of the young people. That’s when I decided I wanted to use my business skills to create real change for young people who are disadvantaged through absolutely no fault of their own.  I set up a charitable foundation arm for my company, MCR Holdings to make this happen.

This foundation, MCR Pathways, is a school-based mentoring programme. It supports those disadvantaged in life to realise their potential through education. It recruits, trains and matches volunteer mentors with those young people. Through trial and much error, what I found made the biggest difference for young people was supportive relationships. These are the prerequisites for young people to build their confidence and realise their potential.

Mentors meet with their young person for just one hour a week and build a relationship, which we’ve seen now makes all the difference. MCR mentors come from all walks of life, from students to taxi drivers to CEOs, and this diversity is essential to make sure every single young person receives the help they need. Mentors also reap enormous benefits from mentoring, in addition to positive feelings of giving back to the community, mentors also develop listening and coaching skills essential for career development.

The programme started in one Glasgow secondary school and has gone on to develop and grow across the city and now into other local authorities.  Independent research and evidence is showing that MCR mentoring makes a huge difference to young people’s confidence and engagement with school.

The support we give also includes our Talent Taster programme of bite-size work experiences and access to university and college. This programme is now being adopted to reform mainstream work experience.

MCR Pathways plans to expand further reaching at least 15 Local Authorities over the next three years. We have a national ambition to bring mentoring to all Scottish care-experienced and disadvantaged young people, providing mentors to more than 5000 pupils. My vision is that every care-experienced and disadvantaged young person in Scotland gets the same education outcomes, career opportunities and life chances as every other young person.

In 2018, we established a National Advisory Group which includes some of Scotland’s most experienced leaders in business, the public sector, education and third sector. The Advisory Group supports the national expansion of MCR Pathways to help fully embed the MCR model within the Scottish education system. We hope MCR will become “business as usual” across Scotland and this programme will be the norm as to how young people are supported in school.

I’m delighted to say that we have had discussions internationally about MCR Pathways and the model is also expected to be taken up by other countries in due course from Australia to Norway.

What’s more, we’ve partnered with Strathclyde Business School to create a revolutionary course which launched in June 2018 and was based on MCR relationship based mentoring. Leadership through MCR Mentoring will build the mentor’s leadership skills and is accredited. I hope this new course will encourage more mentors to go on and inspire young people to become leaders themselves. I’m delighted Strathclyde is also committed to having 20% of staff become active mentors.

The impact of this programme can be seen in the figures: in terms of staying on rates, the national figure is 39% for care-experienced young people, while for MCR mentored pupils it’s 79%. For positive destinations after leaving school, the national figure is 60% while the MCR figure is 86%, and for attainment, the national figure is 61%, while for MCR mentored pupils it’s 92%. The facts speak for themselves: for MCR Pathways, and those we support, the only way is up.

If you'd like to become a mentor, please click here

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