By Hannah McCormack
Barnett Quammie applied to UK Boardroom Apprentice because he craved the opportunity to do something new and give back to the community, whilst moving away from his working environment.
With a background in pharmaceuticals, the 60-year-old’s experience has been clinical and analytical, qualities that align perfectly with certain boardroom environments. Barnett felt that these qualities could assist him within a boardroom, particularly when analysing papers or looking at account information.
Growing an interest in board systems and most importantly, board growth and diversity, Barnett was recently appointed a magistrate within the UK. He later discovered 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 experience in a safe and practical environment before they take that step.
When speaking about why he applied for UK Boardroom Apprentice, he noted that “giving back” was the most important factor:
“I believe that there is no greater purpose than contributing to the country that you reside in and giving back to society and the community.
“I felt I’d be part of a programme that would support my beliefs and would help me bring those values instilled in me.”
Boardroom Apprentice seeks to enable a wider diversity of individuals to play their part within boardrooms across the UK. According to Barnett, the programme “shows how boards are dated and don’t reflect society and the everyday changes.”
Noting his interest in diversity and inclusion, and the importance of diversity within boards, Barnett said
“I think one of the biggest problems with diversity is people tend to break it down into ‘let’s have more women’, when diversity should be based upon each individual regardless of their characteristics, whether it’s sexual orientation, their age, or their religion.
“They should be seen as potential board candidates because they will bring diversity of thought, but most of all, their cultural beliefs could support the board in making decisions if they’re trying to drive particular products or they’ve got strategic directions they want to go down, and that individual could bring a new perspective compared to a board that tends to have that sort of image where it’s always been historically older white men in their 50s and 60s whose thought is based around their ethnicity.”
Barnett, from Sevenoaks in Kent, was placed on a board with Canary Wharf-based Ofwat which was his first choice due to their focus on environmental problems and climate change.
“The reason I chose Ofwat is because there’s so much in the news about environmental problems, climate change and so on, and to prepare myself for my role, I actually did an exam in environmental and climate change.
“So when I actually selected them as one of my top 3, I could contribute to the board by talking about what I’ve studied, what I’ve researched, and what climate change has done to various countries around the world.”
Boardroom Apprentice also prides itself on the support system for those taking part in the programme, ensuring that everyone feels welcome and comfortable in their new role. Upon being assigned a host board, Boardroom Apprentices are paired with a Board Buddy who aids with their progression throughout the twelve-month experience, as well as being provided with a suite of learning days.
“The chairman took great interest in me being there” and as a result, he was able to see how the “boardroom environment can be very complex and very stressful for others, but if they work in unison, they all take some of the weight.”
Participants of the programme often claim they go on a personal journey over the 12 months. For Barnett, this was no different.
“It was very personal… I believe you need to know your worth to go forward, and being on this programme, and being in a boardroom, made me see how much worth I had in me.
“The contribution I could give to the board was really appreciated because they would ask me questions that they would never ask themselves because they had no one around them who thought differently, so my thoughts were really taken and even acted upon.”
Speaking further about the importance of inclusion and diversity within boardrooms, Barnett spoke about how people, especially those within minority groups, can feel lost, and unsure of their direction.
He mentioned the negative stereotypes that can surround boardrooms, explaining that people: “Might want to apply for a position within an organisation and they’re put off by the perception of what a board looks like.
“I believe I want to introduce people who never thought they were able to come into a organisation, regardless of how they look or where they’re from, and be part of something.”
Talking about his future, Barnett noted that his drive and goal is to: “Send a message out to people regardless of religion, sex, disability, that you are welcomed, our doors are open to you, where it was shut in the past, please come.
“You don’t need to knock, it’s open.”
For those thinking of applying to UK Boardroom Apprentice, this is what Barnett had to say: “Don’t limit your mind and think you are not what a board would look for.
“It’s people like you that once you get onto the UK Boardroom Apprentice, and you’re placed on a host board, that you will open up their eyes and they will see what they’ve been missing, not just within a few years, but over the decades, because society has changed and you could be the person that could make them recognise that they need to move with the times.”