Mr Whitley, won the part-scholarship worth $1000 as part of the Institute of Community Directors Australia's commitment to improve the leadership prospects of under-represented sectors.
He said the study had significantly improved his contribution to the board of Wollondilly Support and Community Care Inc. (WSACCI), which helps the elderly and those with a disability.
Studying online from Camden in south-west Sydney, Mr Whitely said the course has been challenging but has exposed him to crucial knowledge about not-for-profits and he encouraged other young people to test themselves against the course.
“It has accelerated my learning for sure, and enabled me to be able to step up to our board.”
Mr Whitely said he now had a broader sense of the “scope” of governance, and the rationale for the many different processes, policies, financial, compliance issues and constitutional controls.
“In the past, I’ve seen that we’ve always done things in certain ways with our board, but now I understand far more how those things protect the organisation, the board and the directors.”
He said his favourite part of the course were taking part in live webinars.
“What I found really valuable was the videos. The webinars are tops. It’s interactive, you can ask the questions, and it’s live, rather than just relying on readings. It’s similar to being in a classroom. And the trainer (Lisa Jennings) is just all over it. She’s been awesome.”
“Even if I hadn’t got the scholarship, I would still do the course,” Mr Whitely said.
Mr Whitely also hoped to use the networking opportunities of the Diploma of Governance to find even more board positions.
In his application, Mr Whitley said the Diploma of Governance would help him to achieve his goals in four main ways, writing:
- It will help me be a more well-rounded not-for-profit board member due to the practical approach of the course
- It will help in my own company
- It will help me in my plan to assist young people in their journey
- It will help me towards my goal of being on four paid boards from the connections I will make with other students on the course.
Listening and learning
Mr Whitley’s first experience of a boardroom meeting came at age 13, when his mentor told him, “Shhhh, don't say a word. Listen, take notes, and we can talk after.” Since that first meeting, he’s been a regular in boardrooms.
Thirteen years later, he co-owns an insurance brokerage, owns a small property development company, and gives back to the community by sitting on the board WSACCI.
Paying it forward
Mr Whitley says young people bring different types of value to the boardroom. “They are not jaded by life experiences and are willing to take risks that historically older board members would not –calculated and legal, of course!”
Mr Whitley says young people on boards are often overlooked or looked down upon because they’re perceived as lacking practical experience, but mentoring can help to overcome this. He aims to one day set up a foundation to help young people to start companies and join boards, and he says great mentors will have a role to play, donating their time to share their stories and experience with young board aspirants.
Last year, Mr Whitely was chosen for one of the fast-tracked Young People of Boards scholarships offered by the Institute of Community Directors Australia, with the award announced during the Festival of Community Directors’ Young People on Boards Week.
The new ongoing speedy application and approval process is aimed at giving scholarship applicants certainty and offering faster access to the benefits of the diploma course.