When 39-year-old Brendan Morrissey first applied to the Boardroom Apprentice programme in 2017, he wasn’t successful.
Yet three years on, he still had an unsatisfied itch to step up and do something different and the 2020 application dwelled on his mind.
“I wanted to do something different – I had that itch to do something outside of my comfort zone. I also felt a social responsibility to step up and do a bit more outside of my day job at Clanmil Housing Association” he said.
Armed with the ambition and drive to play a part on a board which had a social purpose and offer some of his skills and attributes to influence and help govern that organisation, Brendan grabbed the 2020 application with both hands and seized the opportunity.
Established by Eileen Mullan in 2017, the Boardroom Apprentice is a unique board learning, development and placement programme which aims to bridge the gap between aspiration and reality for those who wish to serve on boards in the Public and Third Sectors.
The programme consists of several training days throughout the year and is carefully planned out to transform each candidate into well-rounded individuals with all the necessary skills, confidence and mindset that will enable them to go forward for Board positions once they complete the programme.
Offering teaching on topics such as communication, governance and finance, Brendan felt that his expectations of the training days were exceeded and thanks to them, he was able to enhance his skills further.
“My expectations of the learning days were exceeded as it just blew my mind in terms of how much I learned and how much I developed.
“Even my self worth and confidence had developed so quickly over a short period of time. I didn’t expect to feel just as strongly about all of that as I did at the end of it.”
For Brendan, the interaction between fellow candidates was one of the highlights of the entire programme.
“I had an amazing team – we were part of team synergy and we really just bounced off each other and empowered each other to keep moving forward and keep the morale high.”
As part of the immersive learning experience, each candidate has to complete a board placement, a key part of the programme that helps individuals become board service ready when they leave.
Brendan was placed on the board of RelateNI, Northern Ireland’s largest provider of relationship support and counselling services.
Throughout his time at RelateNI, Brendan attended board meetings and audit committee meetings where he encountered many individuals who helped shape his invaluable experience of overlooking a board that has an influence on society.
“RelateNI were amazing. I was attracted to their social purpose and the great work that they do so I felt privileged to be placed there,
“The team were very generous with their time, expertise and energy and I felt they really invested in me as a person,” he explained.
After completing his placement, Brendan became invested in everything that RelateNI did and was accepted as an official board and trustee member of the charity.
Brendan also felt compelled to apply for an opportunity he previously would have disregarded thanks to the impact the Boardroom Apprentice had on him.
“I thought I can’t waste this opportunity of being fresh off the Boardroom Apprentice programme and feeling so energetic and skilled, so I applied to The Chartered Institute of Housing and I’m a trustee with them now as well.”
Not only does the programme help to change the course of an individual’s professional career, it seeks to enable a wider diversity of individuals within boardrooms across Northern Ireland and challenges preconceived stereotypes of the makeup of boardrooms.
“There is a perception of white men who are retired professionals and that’s not what boardrooms need. They need people from all walks of life with all sorts of experience, with all sorts of skill sets and attributes.
“I think the Boardroom Apprentice is essential because a lot of people including myself think that they haven’t got what it takes but boards are crying out for people and want a more diverse board and this programme is opening a gateway for that I hope.
Brendan’s message to those thinking of applying to the Boardroom Apprentice this year is one of encouragement, as he appeals to anyone to get involved as long as they understand the commitment it takes to complete and emphasises that people should apply early.
“My message to anybody who is on the fence about whether they want to apply is – you absolutely have what it takes, you just don’t realise you have got what it takes until you’re in the programme. Anyone who is thinking of going for it will not regret it. You’ll have a great year if you put in a little bit of work.
“Don’t give up because it’s going to be something you’re going to really enjoy, it’s something you’re going to learn so much, you’re going to meet amazing people.”
Applications for Boardroom Apprentice are open until May 24th, 2022.