By Hannah McCormack
When Opusdei Aghanenu found out about the UK Boardroom Apprentice Programme, choosing to apply was a no brainer.
Opusdei, who is originally from Nottingham, found out about what working on a board could be like two years prior to taking part in the programme and wanted to take part for a number of reasons.
Opusdei, 25, explained: “Firstly, I like giving back and I’ve always been involved in some kind of voluntary and charity work. The second is that I like learning and it was a good way to develop my leadership skills on a more strategic level.
“I attended a public appointments webinar where I found out that the UK Boardroom Apprentice was still open for applications the weekend before the closing date.
“It made sense to equip myself with the knowledge and skills that I would need to be on a board and also give myself that confidence that I belong in and can add value to a strategic leadership environment. I was excited to apply from that point onwards.”
Established by Eileen Mullan in 2017, UK 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 to serve on a public or third sector board.
Opusdei was placed on the Heart of England Mencap board based in Warwickshire during her experience. On the board, Opusdei attended board meetings, including joining the finance sub-committee in order to increase her knowledge and boost her confidence. She also found value in attending the learning days. She worked with her team on a case study and had the chance to present this to current board members of various organisations.
She elaborated on her experience with the board: “I’m a Doctor, so it was good to get experience on a board that was related to healthcare and social care and see things from a community care aspect.
“My role on the board was to observe how things work and ask all the silly questions. As I got more confident in board meetings I was able to offer my perspective as well. For example, providing insight into NHS hospital processes and making suggestions about how good practice could be translated into the Heart of England Mencap services.”
Boardroom Apprentice 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. For Opusdei, this diversity at board level is extremely important.
“Oftentimes organisations provide services that impact a wide range of people from different communities, backgrounds and settings and it would be highly beneficial for them to have people with those lived experiences contributing on that board to help make sure that the services or running of the organisation directly benefits the people it’s supposed to.
“One way to diversify boards is to have them be really forthright in saying ‘we’re happy to have you even if you don’t have previous board or executive level experience, we’re interested in you, in your background and in your why’, I think would be really encouraging for people to apply.”
To those who are thinking of applying to the programme, Opusdei had this advice:
“Just apply, do it. Clearly, something piqued your interest and more than likely, you will absolutely love it, you’ll learn the skills you need, feel more confident in yourself and more competent to be on a board. Even if you find that it’s not right for you, you will have gained valuable and transferable knowledge.”
Applications for the programme are open to people of all ages, from 18+, and all backgrounds and abilities.