By Jasmine Hughes
Though already a part of Northern Ireland’s civil service, Belfast resident Robin Taylor felt he wanted the chance to give back to the community he lives in. The Boardroom Apprentice programme gave Robin the opportunity to do exactly that.
Hailing from Lisburn originally, Robin is an employee within the Department for the Economy, working within the Permanent Secretary’s office. Incentivised by a desire to “make a difference in the community”, Robin joined the Boardroom Apprenticeship scheme in August last year.
Founded in 2017 by Eileen Mullan, Boardroom Apprentice seeks to move the board member role from aspiration to reality.. For people wanting to make a tangible difference to their local or national community, Boardroom Apprentice enables individuals to learn and develop the necessary skills in a safe and well-supported environment. With a passion for music, Robin knew going into the programme that he wanted to work on a board with a background in the arts.
“Music plays a major role in my life,” said Robin, who plays both percussion and the piano, and has prior experience as a member of a band.
It happened that Robin was placed with Arts Care, a charity based in Belfast. Founded in 1991, Art Care serves as the meeting point between art and healthcare. Through a variety of art projects, workshops and events, Arts Care aims to support the health and well-being of all its participants.
Boardroom Apprentice pushed Robin harder than expected.
“In all honesty, the programme was much more than I expected,” said Robin, adding: “More work, but I also got much more out of it.”
Though perhaps challenging at times, Robin’s time with Arts Care helped him to develop skills vital to a position on a board in the public sector. But there’s a versatility to the skills learned, too.
“It definitely added several strings to my bow,” said Robin.
“I’ve a much greater understanding of what Boards do, and can apply almost all of the learning to my day job as well.”
But the Boardroom Apprentice provided Robin with even more than a sharpened set of skills. During his time with Arts Care, Robin found himself a part of a close-knit team. The team went beyond merely collaborative. Not only did they all work well together, but there was a genuine level of care. Robin said he was surprised by quite how strongly the “team came together”.
“There were plenty of Zoom calls and WhatsApp messages where we all looked after each other,” said the 36 year old.
“I wasn’t expecting to find such a good, caring group when I walked through the door on the first day, or that we’d all need each other over the year.”
Robin’s experience as part of the Arts Care team left a great impression on him.
“I learnt as an individual, but contributed as part of a team,” said the Belfast local.
“You’ll get very close to your fellow team members, which was a great outcome.”
Growth in all aspects, as facilitated by the programme, provided Robin with an excellent learning experience.
“But it’s learning on a variety of subjects,” said Robin, elaborating on the wide breadth of experience that Boardroom Apprentice participants gain during their time on the programme.
Robin referred to “all the Learning Days” he participated in, as well as “the time spent attending Board meetings”.
Along with this, Robin also had the chance to attend workstream meetings and event openings, as well as strategic and board induction days.
“The biggest learning point has probably been developing how I read, analyse and make notes of documents,” Robin added.
“Specifically board papers, including financial statements.
“I learned more about Finance than I thought possible, as well as learning about governance, partnership working, as well as the sort of questions we could be asking.”
Beyond providing participants with the skills and experience needed to flourish on a public or third sector board, Boardroom Apprentice seeks to go one step further by diversifying the industry.
Robin said he felt that the Boardroom Apprentice programme “embraces diversity” and “challenges stereotyping”.
By ensuring diversity in its intake, work can be done to ensure that diversity increases across boards within the public sector.
“The more diversity in the programme will hopefully lead to more diversity on boards, as each cohort applies to board positions,” he explained.
As Robin’s time on the Arts Care board comes to an end, he reflected upon his experience there.
“Arts Care have been absolutely fantastic at every stage of the programme,” he said.
“They were incredibly welcoming and included me in everything they’ve done. They’re a fantastic organisation that are doing wonderful work in the community.
Armed with the experience he’s gained and skills he’s learnt, Robin now hopes to find a permanent position on a board. His advice to those contemplating applying for Boardroom Apprentice?
“Take advantage of the chance!
“It is such a wonderful opportunity,” he said. “I think it’s a great developmental opportunity for anyone that can apply.”
Applications for the Boardroom Apprentice 2023 programme open on Monday June 5 and close at 3pm on Monday June 19.
To apply go the Boardroom Apprentice programme go to boardroomapprentice.com/how-to-apply