Board Apprentice Scheme offers hands-on, practical development of high calibre Black executives at a fraction of the cost of most leadership and management training programmes.
100Projects.Org is looking to launch a “Board Apprentice Scheme” that will give senior Black executives a unique opportunity to get board experience to progress their careers to the next level.
The scheme, which will be aimed at listed companies, SMEs and other major organisations, will have the potential to significantly grow the talent pipeline Black executives by giving them 12 months’ experience on a major board.
For more information, please contact the interim project co-ordinator: Ayo Adeduro
The Board Apprentice Scheme gives talented, senior Black executives board-level development opportunities on the boards, or subsidiary boards, of other businesses.
It represents a practical step to support increasing the representation of Black people in the senior layers of listed companies, by giving them direct first-hand experience of boards, as well as increasing the pool of talent of Black non-executive directors.
The concept has been proven through several successful trials run by UK Government Investments, Board Apprentice and the Institute of Directors in New Zealand. These three schemes were very well received by participants and the public and private sector boards who have participated.
Diversity is a business driver, and by embracing differences, we can then realise the maximum customer and shareholder benefits. As a result, there is a significant business need to improve the diversity of perspective, outlook, experience and thought that high-calibre, well-qualified, diversified talent can bring.
The scheme will aim to provide individual participants with the fullest possible board experience short of being a director. They take part in all day-to-day aspects of the board, with access to board papers and regular opportunities to offer their views in meetings when invited. They will be encouraged to participate in sub-committees and offered the same induction and training given to non-executive directors and/or executives.
To ensure that there is no confusion about their legal status, they will not be appointed, nor will they act as directors, nor will they be paid. They will have no voting rights, will not instruct nor direct the board in any way and are not part of the formal decision-making process. They will not form part of the quorum of a board meeting and are bound by the host board’s confidentiality rules.
This is formalised in three legal agreements between Board Apprentice and the board, Board Apprentice and the candidate and the board and candidate (through a rider to the appointment letter).
Participants will not be paid for their contribution and remain employed by their own company throughout. It is left to the host board’s discretion to determine whether they can pay travel and subsistence expenses as they would usually for a board member and if whether to include the participant in their D&O insurance.
A good match benefits both the board and the participant, so boards will be asked what skills/experience they are looking for and matched with carefully-selected candidates. Individuals will not be matched with boards where there is a conflict of interest or a chance of them gaining a competitive advantage.
Each opportunity will typically be for 12 months (one full board cycle) but can be ended at any point by either the host board or the participant. In exceptional circumstances, it can also be extended by mutual consent.
In the first instance, the scheme will focus on talented Black candidates who are “board-ready”, but who would benefit from the additional personal development, experience and direct access that the scheme brings. However, the intention is to look beyond this cohort of candidates to identify other rising stars in the Black executive talent pool who will form the pipeline for the future.
The model will be designed so that, in the longer term, it could be expanded beyond Black candidates to improve broader diversity on boards.
Benefits for Participants
The scheme will provide an opportunity for talented Black executives who have little or no remunerated board experience to accumulate credible experience for future non-executive or executive roles.
Benefits for Host Boards
- A fresh perspective and viewpoint in the boardroom.
- Demonstrating a commitment to diversity and improving Black representation.
- Helping to develop a deeper pool of talent for tomorrow’s boardrooms, giving more talented Black executives the necessary additional experience to successfully apply for directorships, and ultimately increasing the proportion of Black people appointed to full boards in the future.
Benefits for Employers
- Hands-on, practical development of their high calibre female executives at a fraction of the cost of other leadership and management programmes.
- A means to tackle under-representation of Black people at senior levels in their organisation and position the company as an organisation committed to diversity.
- Helping to develop a deeper pool of talent for tomorrow’s boardrooms, giving more talented women the necessary additional experience to successfully apply for directorships, and ultimately increasing the proportion of Black people appointed to full boards in the future.
Participants will be expected to contribute their own time to prepare for board business.
- £5k (or equivalent) per participant placed to help cover the administration costs of the scheme on a not-for-profit basis.
- Addition to D&O insurance and payment of usual board expenses at the board’s discretion.
£5k (or equivalent) per participant placed to help cover the administration costs of the scheme on a not-for-profit basis bearing in mind that this is significantly less than executive development courses at leading business schools which cost £7k – £13k (or equivalent) for 1-2 week courses, plus circa 12 days of the participant’s time per year.
How to join
The model will be to place board-ready Black executives from listed companies – or equivalent large, complex organisations – on the boards, or subsidiary boards of host organisations.
To participate in the scheme, we will need to do three things:
- Develop a pipeline of organisations willing to host a participant on their board, or a subsidiary board.
- Develop a pipeline of high calibre candidates to be placed on the host organisation’s board, or subsidiary board.
- Pay a contribution towards the scheme of £5k for the placement of their candidate.
What is the problem we are trying to address?
Black people are severely under-represented on the boards of major companies and equivalent organisations. Little progress has been made, particularly in Non-Executive Director (NED) appointments, so there is plenty of work to do regarding building a pipeline of Black executives and non-executive directors.
The Board Apprentice Scheme aims to
- directly address current barriers to progress faced by Black executives with board-level potential by giving them relevant practical experience;
- help businesses and organisations develop their talented Black senior-level staff more quickly in preparation for board-level responsibility; and
- support the wider aim to tackle under-representation of Black people on boards and executive leadership teams in UK-based organisations.
Why does this matter?
- Boards make better decisions where there is a range of voices that draw on the different life experiences that represents the full range of talent and customer bases, can be heard.
- Evidence suggests that companies with strong, diverse representation at board and top management level perform better than those without.
- More widely, it is important for the UK economy that organisations draw on the best talent from as wide a talent pool as possible.
So what’s different about this initiative?
There are some good initiatives out there which aim to help address this problem, including mentoring/sponsorship schemes, training and development programmes, and networking events and organisations. This is a complementary initiative that will enable Black executives to obtain a first-hand experience on the boards of commercial, public sector and other organisations. The concept has been well received by participants in several successful trials run by UK Government Investments, Board Apprentice and the Institute of Directors in New Zealand.
Surely offering this to Black people only is discriminatory?
No. Participants are not being appointed as directors or paid for the role. It is a training and development opportunity, involving proportionate measures to try to reduce disadvantages currently suffered by talented Black people with the potential to become executive and non-executive directors as well as to try to increase the representation of Black people on boards. Our view is that this amounts to lawful positive action under the Equalities Act 2010.
What about the Companies Act 2006 – won’t participants be directors?
The role is of a trainee, with no decision making powers or voting rights. Participants do not count towards the quorum, and they should not dictate or influence board decisions. That said, the scheme aims to give them the fullest possible board experience. During the successful UKGI pilot scheme, both participants and host boards said they felt the greatest value is gained when, where appropriate, participants take part in the discussions.
How are you going to ensure the best people are selected for this?
The majority of candidates will be put forward by organisations from their existing talent programmes – in effect, candidates who those organisations believe fit the criteria of being “board-ready” or showing very high levels of potential. Additionally, each candidate will have to undergo a thorough selection process to confirm their skills, experience and qualities. We will work closely with host boards to find suitable “matches” between candidates and host organisations.
Why should I release an employee for this scheme?
It helps develop your senior Black executives and strengthens your commitment to developing a diverse workforce – for less than the cost of executive development courses at leading business schools. Furthermore, any candidates you put forward will gain a first-hand, practical understanding of how boards work and will bring that knowledge and understanding back to your organisation.
So what’s the benefit to my board?
The participants will be high-performing Black executives who have been selected as having board potential. They will bring their expertise, skills, experience and a fresh perspective to your board. We would match your needs with the skills that specific participants could bring.
Why should I have a stranger on my board – surely that’s rather risky? What about commercial confidentiality?
Participants will already be senior executives who in many cases are working full-time in commercial and other organisations, and are subject to confidentiality and other contractual and/or governance requirements. Additionally, participants will be bound by the host board’s confidentiality rules (like external NEDs), and we recommend that the host includes them in any appropriate induction process. This is formalised in the scheme’s legal agreements, and it is for the host organisation to decide whether to also include their participant in their D&O insurance.
What is my £5k (or equivalent) contribution used for?
The scheme is run by 100Projects.Org on a not-for-profit basis. The £5k contribution per participant will go towards covering the cost of administering the scheme. If any surplus income is generated, this will be reinvested in the expansion of the scheme or to support other initiatives that 100Projects.Org undertakes.
What if our main board would not be suitable for a scheme of this kind?
While the scheme targets the main board, it may be that a subsidiary board could be a better host for a participant and, critically, could also offer the appropriate level of practical experience. Where your organisation has multiple companies/boards, we would be happy to discuss the options.
Who is the scheme available to? What if I am a smaller organisation? What if I am an individual?
The Board Apprentice Scheme is open to all listed and equivalent large, complex organisations. If you are interested in getting involved, particularly if you can provide a host board, please contact us. If you are an individual who wishes to be a trainee on a board, please visit the Board Apprentice Scheme page for details of forthcoming selection rounds.
Who are the organisations who are delivering the scheme?
100Projects.Org is a not-for-profit organisation bringing together human, intellectual, and financial capital to tackle issues around diversity, inclusion and equity facing black people working in Britain. We will consider opportunities to deliver the scheme in partnership with a small selection of Executive Search firms.
Support this project
For more information about the Board Apprentice Scheme, and to get involved, please contact the project manager via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project is part of our Leadership and Boardroom Representation theme.