How it all began

April 16, 2021 Admin

Boardroom Apprentice Founder, Eileen Mullan, shares how it all began

The genesis of the boardroom apprentice comes from two perspectives. From my observations as a Chair of the Board of Age NI recruiting trustees and as a governance practitioner who spends her time working with boards across the third and public sectors. I hear many times about Boards struggling to get board members when recruiting, the frequent statement is that people just aren’t interested in serving. I know that not to be the case, my experience has been that people do want to serve, but rule themselves out for many reasons:  lack of experience, being too young and not knowing what is expected of them.

So how do you crack the chestnut of applying for a board position and not being selected because you do not have board experience?

I had an idea to create something really practical that would enable people who wanted to serve on a board to learn how to do just that in a safe way.

The aim – move the board member role from aspiration to reality

Boardroom Apprentice brings together the best in their field to share their skills, knowledge and experiences.

The Objectives

  • To create a diverse pool of capable board ready Board Members
  • To provide a sustainable pool of capable board ready Board Members
  • To enable practical boardroom experience for aspiring Board Members
  • To provide the transfer of knowledge, skills and experience to aspiring Board Members
  • To increase the knowledge and awareness of the role of Board Members

The Pilot went out for recruitment in April 2017 with 24 host boards. The expectation was that we could received 15 applications There were 200 applications for the pilot. This tells us two things; there is a desire to serve and a clear ask of help to do just that. 

Nadine, Seamus, Rachel and Margaret joined 25 other aspiring Board Members in taking the step to learn about being a Board Member for the pilot programme in 2017.

761 completed applications have been received in 4 years

163 Boardroom Apprentices have taken the journey

60+ Host Boards from across the Public and Third Sectors

I started out on this journey to try something different and see if it had any impact. Never did I imagine that 4 years later, with 761 applications,  163 Boardroom Apprentices and over 60 Host Boards that the programme’s impact is being felt in many ways. With dedicated support from the Department of Finance the opportunity for more people to become Boardroom Apprentices and realise their aspiration has been provided since 2019. A follow up tracker tells us that Boardroom Apprentice is delivering well above its expectations with 68% of the 2017 & 2018 cohort now sitting on a board playing an active role.

Boardroom Apprentice is an eclectic collaboration between the public, private and third sectors working together to enable others to play their part in our boardrooms. This is all about creating a safe place to learn, gain knowledge and experience. Thanks to all those who said yes to support Boardroom Apprentice. Without you, the 163 Boardroom Apprentices to date wouldn’t have had this opportunity. Nor indeed the ones that are yet to come.

Eileen Mullan