We asked a number of our Boardroom Apprentices what it has been like for them…

Charlene Cullen, Boardroom Apprentice, Age NI Enterprises

I was made redundant due to Covid, it was daunting at first as a single parent, I realised it was time I did something which I was interested in. I enrolled at the North West Regional College to studying business and I also put myself forward for Boardroom Apprentice.

I have always been interest in being part of a board but like so many I did not know where to start.

Boardroom Apprentice has taught me a vast amount in finance, effective communication and governance within a board. I now have the confidence to ask the questions. ‘How trivial you might think it is, it may be important to someone else’. That is why you are there to ask the questions, as it’s about making a difference.

I can now show my daughter that after being made redundant that I gained so much more and now on a path where I know I can make a difference and Boardroom Apprentice has given me the tools and confidence to do that. 

Lai Chun Pang, Boardroom Apprentice, Equality Commission 

My name is Lai Chun Pang, I came from Hong Kong and have been living in Northern Ireland for more than thirty years. Originally, I came to Northern Ireland for further education. After studying, I moved on to working in communities as a Community Development Officer tasked to support ethnic minority groups in integrating into the local society and in encouraging the local residents understanding the issues faced by different minorities. It was a challenging job. 

I did enjoy the eight learning days and group meetings. The programme guided me to understand how the government functions and rules in the society, and I also became more aware of accounting practices. I feel that I gained considerable new insights from this training, especially learning day three communication.Having had this positive learning experience, I would encourage more people, including ethnic groups, to participate in the Boardroom Apprentice. It does not matter what age you are, your educational background, cultural background or even lack of experience or being unemployed. This programme gave participants an opportunity to grow in confidence and move forward in their own life. 

Roisin Kelly,  Boardroom Apprentice, Utility Regulator for Northern Ireland

I am a communications and public engagement professional in health and social care. I applied to become a Boardroom Apprentice for a few reasons, I had heard such great feedback about the programme from a number of people, I have been contemplating applying for Board membership and felt that this programme offered the opportunity to expand my knowledge and explore what it is like to sit at Board level and expand my horizons, to network and meet new people and hear new perspectives. 

I was lucky to be selected to sit as Boardroom Apprentice on the Utility Regulator for Northern Ireland. Through virtual platforms I have been able to gain valuable experience of Board meetings and committees as well as gaining a greater understanding of the Utilities sector. I have had excellent one to one mentoring at Board level and operational briefings from senior leaders. Sitting on the Board has brought to life the insights gained through each of the carefully and expertly chosen learning day topics, with each session providing the opportunity to expand my knowledge base and equip me with the information to identify issues and ask insightful questions. 

This experience has fulfilled my expectations and much, much more, I have met some amazing people, honed existing skills and learned new ones. The next step for me is to put this experience to good use and am already seeking opportunities for Board level appointments. 

Nikita Brijpaul, Boardroom Apprentice, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Born in the UK, raised in the Caribbean and Canada, in adulthood I lived and worked in Japan, Scotland and now Northern Ireland. Here’s a little secret, in 2019 I applied to the Boardroom Apprentice and was rejected. In 2020 I spent weeks deliberating on my application. My life experiences and values had led me to a place where I believed I should seek to serve my community with gratitude.  I was fortunate to be selected as a Boardroom Apprentice and placed with the Board of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. 

I had the privilege of observing first hand key principles of public life upheld to the highest standards.  I have learnt the importance of expressing gratitude, the art of questioning and importance of first principles. I sat through articulate discussions and witnessed courage and respectful dissent. This experience served immensely to demystify what goes on behind the closed doors of the boardroom and build my confidence. 

I am now confident in what I bring to the table and will take these learnings to a future board position. I have learned to rely on my own internal compass and the Nolan Principles. Confidence and courage are of utmost importance as both are required to ask the most obvious question in the simplest form. I believe that when people cease to question and seek accountability then society ceases to progress. 

Sheena Kenny, Boardroom Apprentice, The Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland

Boardroom Apprentice is a unique programme as it allows you the opportunity to have a ‘lived experience ‘of a board whilst marrying the theory from your learning days. This in essence allows the theory-practice gap to close and brings an additional richness to your learning. For me, the beauty of this programme is that it allowed me the opportunity to grow and develop as a person by being able to listen to others, listen to the voices of experience and seek new ways to engage and participate with others from different walks of life. 

As the programme moves forward the learning not only comes from the facilitators, the host board and assigned boardroom buddy but from one another, in a spirit of partnership. Keeping your expectations realistic is of the utmost importance, and the commitment from your organisation/work place along with your own personal commitment is essential as you will need to incorporate your own self–directed learning throughout the programme. 

So where to next?  With realistic expectations and recognising that every day is a school day, it’s time to get the application forms out, and get on board! 

Meet Charlene, David, Eoin, Magdalena, Shannon and Gillian…

Listen to the impact being a Boardroom Apprentice had on the class of 2020…