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Northern Irish business leaders need bigger role in UK's public institutions

Business and community leaders based across Northern Ireland are being urged to apply for roles that run the UK’s public institutions. 

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, is in Belfast today speaking to the business community about the expertise and skills they can bring to the public sector.

There are over 300 public institutions in the UK that offer such roles. These include everything from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Office for Environmental Protection, to Honours Committees and the BBC.

The UK Government makes over 1,000 public appointments per year across a range of sectors, with new roles going live every week. 

Current roles on offer include: Executive Chair of Innovate UK; Chair of the Geospatial Commission; Northern Ireland Chair of the Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee; and Independent Member of the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe will speak to over 100 business and community leaders today who have signed up to the event at the Lagan Valley Island Conference Centre in Lisburn. 

She will highlight the strengths in Northern Ireland industry citing the health and social work sector, which employs nearly 150,000 people, and the value professionals from this sector could bring to health-related public appointments including on boards of NHS bodies. 

The Minister will also discuss the business community’s expertise in managing micro and small businesses, relevant to roughly 75,000 professionals across the country, which provides transferable skills for operating in small board teams. 

Belfast has also been chosen as the location of this event due to its key role in the UK Government’s levelling up agenda. Amongst other investments, the UK Government has awarded £120 million to projects in Northern Ireland through its levelling up fund.

The Government will further support Northern Ireland to capitalise on its unique opportunities by providing £150 million to develop an Enhanced Investment Zone. 

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, said:

I am particularly keen to increase the number of successful candidates from across the UK including here in Northern Ireland.

Public appointees get the chance to improve vital public services, get more involved with their communities, work with a wide range of talented people and make a difference to society. They are extremely rewarding roles and can help accelerate people’s careers. 

The skills and expertise here in Northern Ireland are highly transferable and can provide great value to the UK’s public institutions. I strongly encourage professionals in the area to consider applying for a position.

Mukesh Sharma MBE DL, Chair of the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Northern Ireland and UK Trustee, said:

One of the most rewarding things I have experienced in my own public appointments is having the opportunity to learn about different communities across the country.  

Through my previous role as member of The Northern Ireland Executive Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition, and my current appointment to The National Lottery Heritage Fund, I have gained an insight into challenges faced by government and communities across the UK. These appointments have given me an opportunity to challenge and improve.

If you are looking for a new experience to broaden your career and connect to communities, I would encourage you to apply to a public appointment.

Also speaking at the event are Eileen Mullan - a founder of Boardroom Apprentice, a programme that aims to boost diversity in boardrooms - and Adriana Morvaiova, a former boardroom apprentice and current diversity, equity and inclusion specialist.

Eileen said:

For many people, their perceptions surrounding the makeup of boardroom members are often one of a number of determining factors which leads them not to apply. 

With 9 cohorts and 435 Boardroom Apprentices, we know the Boardroom Apprentice is working. The follow up tracker shows that 56% of the first five cohorts are actively involved on Boards 12 months following completion.  

When the Boardroom Apprentices go on to realise their aspiration and serve, I couldn’t be prouder – you know you are doing something right.

Adriana said:

The boardroom apprentice program has been a pivotal milestone in my journey, empowering me with crucial skills and affirming my inherent talents and passion. It taught me skills and knowledge I was able to transfer to all areas in my life. It equipped me with the knowledge and confidence to become a competent board member.

Stepping into public appointments has myriad benefits. They offer opportunities to network, broaden perspectives, influence policies, and contribute meaningfully to society. Bringing business and innovation experience from the private sector across to the public sector, creates space for learning and positive change.

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