By Rachel Black
After not having the initial confidence or experience with board roles, 29-year-old Lou Welham jumped at the opportunity to apply for the UK Boardroom Apprentice with the main aim of helping communities.
Boardroom Apprentice is a unique board learning, development, and placement programme which enables those who would like to serve on a public or third sector board to learn and gain the experience that they need to take that step. Since its inception in 2017, the programme has seen 372 Boardroom Apprentices embark on their personal journey.
For Lou, it was her desire to get her foot in the door that propelled her to apply for the programme. She explained: “I was looking at roles online for boards and thinking to myself that I’d never be able to get any of those, even in 10 years’ time. They all ask for loads of experience and I didn’t have any of it, so I felt that I needed a step on the ladder somehow in order to enable me to get into that environment where I could give back.”
After securing a place on the programme, which gave her the opportunity she needed, the Essex woman who now lives in London, finally felt part of something bigger, a place where she could make a real difference.
“I love working with communities and thinking about the real kind of grassroots need behind what companies are doing. Being on a board allows you to feed that in and be in the room where the big decisions are made.”
Being placed with the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), Lou’s confidence in her own ability has grown immensely.
“It’s all about confidence for me. I’ve had a great experience with that along the way. My confidence has grown hugely and I feel more self-sufficient and more listened to. You learn that there are people out there who want to hear what you’ve got to say.”
Being on the UK Boardroom Apprentice programme requires a significant personal commitment, most of which is during the working day, along with some evenings and weekends. Speaking candidly about her experience, Lou also acknowledged the challenges of the programme:
“I think it’s stretching in a really positive way, so if you don’t want to be stretched then this isn’t the place for you. You feel energised, challenged, and you know it’s hard work but it definitely pays off in the end.”
The 12 month board learning, development and placement programme seeks to enable a diverse range of individuals to play their part within boardrooms, allowing those without board experience to enhance their knowledge and understanding through in-depth learning and support. This is something that Lou has also highlighted about her experience.
“In my sector to date, my career has been in property and that’s been very very older male-dominated and so the diversity not just on the board but on the programme here has been absolutely incredible.”
Aside from assisting others whilst also progressing in her career, the 29 year old felt a new sense of acceptance, which enabled her to further develop more confidence in her own abilities.
“I’ve made so many new connections and also it’s made me realise that I do have a place in other sectors apart from the one I work in.”
For those thinking of applying to the programme, Lou offered this advice:
“Absolutely do it! You’ll meet so many great people, you’ll challenge yourself beyond belief and you’ll get a foot on the ladder for future board roles you may never have been able to achieve otherwise.”