Inspire supports the launch of a new board level apprenticeship scheme

LONDON - 7th July 2015 - By Amanda Ciske, Inspire Communications Manager 

Last week Inspire UK hosted a special network evening, sponsored by Baroness Sandip Verma, on the terrace of the House of Lords. It was our biggest event to date with over 120 guests attending from across government, academia and both the private and public sectors. London was at its sparkling best, as attendees were introduced to a unique initiative to increase diversity in the Boardroom.

The evening on Thursday 2nd July 2015 supported the official UK launch of Board Apprentice, a global not-for-profit organisation dedicated to increasing diversity on boards by widening the pool of diverse and board-ready candidates. Created by fellow Inspire member Charlotte Valeur, a portfolio independent Non-Executive Director and governance specialist, the programme connects suitable individuals with host boards to take part in a 12-month placement to gain practical insight into the operations and dynamics of a board.

Enjoying the seasonably warm weather and a light breeze from the River Thames, guests heard first from Baroness Verma, a renowned advocate on the issue of workplace diversity, who called on both women and men to play an equal role in moving this agenda forward. She highlighted Harvey Nash's long-standing commitment to diversity through its own networks Inspire, Aspire and Engage and its support of the positive activities of organisations like Board Apprentice, describing the Group as a real pace setter for the rest of the executive search industry!

The founder of Inspire, Carol Rosati OBE spoke of the shared values of Inspire and Board Apprentice and the shared drive and commitment to creating better-balanced boards. Over the past several months, Carol has been involved in the selection committee of future apprentices and has worked with the Board Apprentice steering committee to establish the much needed UK chapter.  

She then introduced Charlotte, who explained that the initiative was created to stop the cycle of individuals being over-looked for or unable to get board positions because they do not have prior board experience. This is a huge barrier for capable individuals and one of the excuses given by boards for their inability to bring greater diversity to the table. The concept is simple, cost-free and can be implemented quickly. In Charlotte's view, current boards are in the best position to help shape future boards and, by taking this simple step they will demonstrate true leadership for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Head of the UK chapter, Anthea Simmons chaired a panel with Andrew Sutch, Chairman of J P Morgan Investment Trust, an early adopter of the apprentice programme, and from Professor Sharon Mavin of the University of Roehampton Business School who has recently joined as their first apprentice. Andrew described how bringing on an apprentice has meant that the board is much more mindful of its own effectiveness and how the added perspective has enriched the discussions around the table. Sharon explained that Board Apprentice has given her the opportunity to cross the line from academia to experience the private sector world that she prepares hundreds of future business leaders for each year. 

Following a lively Q&A and strong interest from the room, Carol  made a final call for all guests to pledge their support to this initiative by agreeing to be a host board, signing up to corporate membership or by putting themselves forward for future opportunities. Open to qualifying individuals from all backgrounds, Board Apprentice could truly be an open door for both senior level talent and boardrooms looking to broaden their experience and knowledge by working in a more inclusive team.

Following the event, Charlotte remarked:

"I would like to say a big Thank You to everyone attending our UK launch at The House of Lords. The support and enthusiasm of everyone was amazing and so many had excellent input into how to spread the word further. We have worked hard to get to where we are and it has only been possible because of the support of many people. After the UK launch we will have many more people helping us change diversity in the boardrooms and move things forward. New countries and ways of using the concept emerge all the time and the launch event was no exception. Hopefully by this time next year we will have ventured into Kenya, SME boards and international apprentices as well. 

"I think the event was a strong picture of the richness we achieve when we mix so many different kinds of people with so many different ways of seeing the world. Thank you for making that happen by being there!

"Also a big thank you to Carol and Inspire/Harvey Nash for organising a super event. It took a lot of work and we are grateful for your support."

Find out more about how to become involved on the Board Apprentice website here.