Lisburn’s Gillian Orr shares her experience as the unique Boardroom Apprentice programme is set to return next month

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Boardroom Apprentice is set to return as applications for this year’s programme open on June 5.

A UK first, the Boardroom Apprentice is a 12-month 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 through in-depth training and support.

Founded by Eileen Mullan in 2017, the programme is now entering its seventh year and has helped 277 candidates across Northern Ireland to begin their Boardroom journey thanks to its support from the Department of Finance.

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Open to those aged 16 or over from all backgrounds and all abilities, the programme seeks to enable a wider diversity of individuals to play their part within boardrooms and helps move the board member role from aspiration to reality.

2022 Boardroom Apprentices Craig Service, Alex Deonarine, Clodagh Palmer and Gillian Orr2022 Boardroom Apprentices Craig Service, Alex Deonarine, Clodagh Palmer and Gillian Orr
2022 Boardroom Apprentices Craig Service, Alex Deonarine, Clodagh Palmer and Gillian Orr

Eileen Mullan, Boardroom Apprentice founder, said: “Over a twelve-month window Boardroom Apprentices will get practical board experience, a suite of learning days and support to fully equip them to serve on a board in the public or third sector in the future.

“Being a Boardroom Apprentice is about preparing you for public service, which is about you playing your part.”

Speaking of her experience, Boardroom Apprentice Alex Deonarine who was placed with the Department of Health said: “Being a young, mixed race girl, I initially felt as if there was no room for me at the boardroom table.

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“I didn't understand my potential and often questioned 'what's the point?' or 'what do I have to bring?'.

“What I learned was that anyone and everyone can serve on a board, it just takes confidence and believing in yourself.

“If you’ve never seen anyone “like you” on a board before, be the first one. You will never regret it – you will only treasure each and every experience on this journey.”

Boardroom Apprentice Gillian Orr, who lives in Lisburn and was placed with Nexus, said her time on the course last year provided her with an opportunity to develop her soft skills: “Through the project work I developed greater interpersonal skills which were really helpful and mirrored the experience of being a new board member.

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“I also learned skills across different areas that I wouldn’t typically have insight to, such as finance analysis and governance, all of which were accessible at all levels and applicable in my host board setting.”

Boardroom Apprentice Clodagh Palmer, who was placed with South Eastern Regional College said the experience helped her in her personal development journey.

“Boardroom Apprentice enables people from different backgrounds to have an opportunity to be on a board.

“I wanted to be on a board for my personal development and to be able to give back to the community in which I live.

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“Before applying I had no idea, to be honest, of what to expect and I thought it wouldn't be as interesting as it was. I was wrong, as I soon found out the programme was far better than I ever expected.

“I learned so much about how boards work, the intricacies and about what I can bring to the board.

This year’s programme will run from September 1, 2023 - until August 31, 2024.

For more information on Boardroom Apprentice go to