By Rachel Black
For community worker Kayzi Ambridge, the idea of sitting on a professional board wasn’t something she believed that she could achieve, but after stumbling upon the application on Facebook only one week before the closing date, she decided to apply.
Kayzi who is originally from London and now lives in Nottingham has overcome a number of challenges including being neurodivergent, as well as battling dyslexia, to land a place on the UK Boardroom Apprentice programme.
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.
It seeks to enable a wider diversity 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.
“I had this idea that I wanted to see if I would potentially be board member material and the feedback I’ve had from my board is overwhelmingly positive and that makes me want to continue the work, either with the Community Foundation or with another organisation that aligns with my values.”
Kayzi was placed with the Staffordshire Community Foundation, where despite her disability and personal commitments, she has been able to flourish as a valued member of the board.
She explained: “Despite having a disability I have managed to stay on track on the course and get the work done. Time management has been a challenge with a busy life outside work, being a carer and my day job.”
Despite these challenges, Kayzi has had an overall positive experience on the programme, adding that: “the people at my host board were really welcoming and supportive. I really got on with them all. It was really nice to know that my lived experience was valued by the board that I was working with.”
The Staffordshire Community Foundation works with local communities, providing practical and financial support where it is needed. This support is particularly important during times of hardship.
Speaking of the specific support made available through this board, Kayzi said: “The foundation gives money to local communities in the form of small grants from endowments, and it is very much a place-based organisation. From what I understand, they actually provide funds where there are shortfalls in the central government and local government, such as food poverty, increased costs of living, and energy bills to communities.”
She continued: “They were also doing work during the Covid pandemic to make sure people were able to keep in contact, providing them with IT equipment at home so that they could keep communicating even though they couldn’t physically mix.”
Kayzi had a number of duties to carry out during her time with her host board, including attending board meetings, being involved in sub-committees, learning about investments, grants and fundraising approaches.
The civil servant community worker has gained invaluable skills as a result of the Boardroom Apprentice programme, including rapid reading skills, the ability to summarise information, critical thinking, active questioning, active listening, reflection, and researching.
When asked to summarise her experience, Kayzi said that “it has given me a structured learning experience and the confidence to know that I can add value to any board.”
Applications for the programme are open to people of all ages, from 18+ with no upper age limit, and all backgrounds and abilities. For those thinking of applying to the programme, Kayzi offered this advice: “Go for it you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”