Champika Dona and Shumailla Dar 

Exeter’s ‘brave, charismatic and passionate’ apprentices shortlisted for national BAME Apprenticeship award

Two inspirational individuals on Degree Apprenticeship programmes at the University of Exeter have been shortlisted for the BAME Apprenticeship Awards 2021.

Shumailla Dar and Champika Dona are both are enrolled on the Level 7 Senior Leadership Degree Apprenticeship programme, which combines study for the University of Exeter Business School’s triple-accredited MBA with employment in a management role. 

The BAME Apprenticeship awards celebrate the work and achievements of apprentices from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic groups (BAME) with the aim of inspiring them to reach the top of their field.

Shumailla, who started her apprenticeship as a senior policy and strategy lead at Harrow Council, has almost single-handedly revamped the local authority’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy since joining Exeter programme.

She led her organisation’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement and has created a new position for herself as the council’s Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, a senior leadership role that would never have existed without her influence.

Champi, a matron who manages two wards at Yeovil District Hospital and, has proposed and delivered several quality improvements initiatives within her hospital since enrolling on the Senior Leadership Degree Apprenticeship programme, including projects to promote diversity, inclusivity and the transformation of services within the NHS.

She has even created her own ‘Nurse Champi’ YouTube channel to share her learning and inspire other Sri Lankan nurses.

Both apprentices joined Exeter’s Senior Leadership Degree Apprenticeship programme as experienced professionals looking to advance their careers to the next strategic level and have a greater impact on their organisations. 

Michelle Trottier, an Associate Lecturer at the Business School and Degree Apprenticeship Mentor, described Shumailla as “an exemplar of an individual who has used her advancement to impact others”. 

She added: “The impact of her enrolment in the programme is so much broader than her role. She is impacting her department, her organisation and her community. She is also doing so in a brave and charismatic way that makes the people around her want to jump on board and do it with her.

“She is an inspiration for members of the BAME community, not only in advancing her career but doing so in a way that enhances the entire BAME community.”

Champi moved to the UK in 2006 after gaining her nursing qualification in Sri Lanka.

She said the Degree Apprenticeship programme had given her the confidence to contribute ideas and influence colleagues within the health trust as well as build a wider network of working relationships.

“I still feel I have more to give particularly as a role model for nursing colleagues from BAME communities, and will work tirelessly to build a bridge of support to enable them to achieve the success they deserve,” Champi said.

Now honing her leadership skills on a Degree Apprenticeship programme, Champi has been described as an inspiration to her colleagues.

Mark Robinson, Deputy Chief Nurse and Champi’s work-based mentor, said: “Her drive and commitment have inspired her team and others to take on challenges that they would not normally consider because of her support and interest in their personal success.”

Rachael Johnstone, Director of Degree Apprenticeships at the University of Exeter Business School, said: “We’re so pleased Champi and Shamailla have received this recognition. Both are exceptional individuals who have been able to harness the taught content of our innovative Senior Leadership Degree Apprenticeship programme not only to advance their careers but to make a lasting impact on their organisations and wider communities.” 

Oli Young, Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Exeter Business School, said: “Celebrating and recognising the achievements of Shumailla and Champi through the BAME apprenticeship awards is an important way of increasing the visibility of role models from minority ethnic backgrounds and underlines the Business School’s commitment to create a diverse and inclusive environment where all people, regardless of background, can fulfil their potential academically and realise their ambitions in the workplace.”

The winners of the BAME Apprenticeship of the Year 2021 will be announced on 30 September.

Date: 6 July 2021

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