Pioneer puts emphasis on young people
There is an infectious enthusiasm surrounding Marius Frank which would be priceless if it could be bottled and sold.
This is a man who is willing to try his hand at just about anything and in all likelihood probably has during what can only be described as a long and varied career. At present the 53-year-old is still settling into his job as the chief executive of education firm Asdan and he is clearly loving every minute of his new role.
Asdan is one of the fastest growing organisations in the education sector and is becoming a major national player.
In previous incarnations Mr Frank has been a neuro biologist and the world's leading expert on the hearing of mice, a touring musician and song writer and the inspirational head teacher of a struggling Bristol primary school.
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The ebullient Marius has obviously inherited some of his charm and style from his father – an actor and opera singer. Mr Frank senior also has the fantastic claim to fame of being the guest at the dinner party in the Indiana Jones movie who tucked into the chilled monkey brains. The image lives long in the memory of anyone who has seen the film.
Last September, after a decade of working on the coal-face of Bristol's beleaguered education system, Mr Frank replaced Roger White as chief executive of Asdan.
Mr White was one of the founding fathers of Asdan and Marius faces a tough task replacing his popular and innovative predecessor.
The St George-based social enterprise was last year's winner of the Business of the Year award at the Bristol Evening Post business awards and has been at the forefront of a revolution in the way we teach our children and deliver in what is becoming an increasingly results-led environment.
Asdan was set up by a group of Bristol teachers with the aim of offering non-vocational courses which teach tomorrow's workforce the skills necessary to succeed in their chosen careers.
The thinking is that rather than just relying on academic achievements young people need to learn the skills that will make them productive and innovative employees.
There has been phenomenal growth over the last ten years in the organisation as firms see the value in what is on offer and thousands of pupils across the country now complete Asdan courses.
Traditionally the Asdan courses were seen as an option for pupils who were not expected to be academically gifted but Marius is keen to change that perception.
He said: "At the moment the whole focus is on exam results but the curriculum should be about so much more than that. What we are trying to do is to prepare young people for the world of work and equip them with the skills necessary to get on in the workplace.
"You can have all the qualifications in the world but that does not necessarily make you a well-rounded employee. We are hearing more and more from employers about how people lack the necessary skills."
He added: "I always use the example of dealing with the broken photocopier. It is actually important in the workplace there are people who can use their initiative and fix the photocopier for themselves rather than waiting for someone else to come along and sort out the problems.
"If a company is downsizing and they are looking at their staff they are much more likely to keep someone on who shows that kind of initiative and the ability to think for themselves rather than waiting for someone to tell them what to do next."
The North Londoner originally trained as a scientist before giving it all up to become a teacher and then a professional musician playing bass in a jazz funk band.
After several years grafting on the music circuit he once again returned to education where he took on the tough challenge of turning around a failing Bristol school.
He said: "I was a working musician for two years and had a fabulous time, we came very close to landing a contract with a record company. I could have carried on but it is a tough lifestyle and there is no real stability, sadly sooner or later you have to find a job that will pay the mortgage."
That job was as a teacher in Bristol which eventually led Mr Frank to taking on the role at Bedminster Down. Mr Frank is credited in bringing the school back to life with a mixture of encouragement, inspiration and determination.
He said: "I have always loved working in a challenging environment and my job from the very first day was to instil a collective responsibility in the school. Every member of staff from the secretary to the teachers were working to improve standards at the school, not just in terms of qualifications but also in terms of behaviour."
Mr Frank is a great believer in playing a role in the community and that ethos plays a massive part in what Asdan does and the way it approaches its work.
He said: "I have been a trustee of Asdan for some time and have been a great believer in the ethos of the organisation. I had always been very impressed from a distance with the way Asdan operated.
"We want to get people to become more involved in the world they live in and to play an active role in the community.
"Learning about social responsibility is one of the best ways of teaching young people to become involved in the community in which they live and work.
"The more you get people involved the more chance you have of getting them to respond positively."
The latest project is aimed at getting Asdan more involved in the business community.
A networking breakfast was held in Bristol where the idea was to engage the business community in the work of Asdan and the aim is to launch a national initiative.
The ambitious goal is to develop a shared understanding of the 21st-century workplace and the skills needed to be a successful employee.
Mr Frank said: "We need to influence policy so that more and more young people develop skills for learning, skills for employment and skills for life.
"We see Bristol as pioneering this drive to tackle the employability skills issue and the plan is to make this a national thing."
A second event is taking place at the House of Lords in March and it is hoped to get the message out, not only to the educators but also the employers who will be on the lookout for the managers and bosses of the future.