My name is Whitney Boateng and I am 26. I was born in Aachen, Germany, and now live in Greater Manchester.
I am currently on a four-year technology degree apprenticeship on the cyber security pathway at Barclays Technology Centre Radbroke. I started my second year in September 2019, attending Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) with the aim of achieving a BSc (Hons) as a cyber security analyst in 2022.
I found out about it when opening a current account with Barclays in 2018 and then applied directly on Barclays.com. I went to school in Germany and completed my A levels there – where apprenticeships are advertised thoroughly. However, the concept of doing a degree apprenticeship is not very common there, so when I found out that there was such an opportunity in the UK, I was very excited to take on this pathway.
Background: Minister backs #InspiringApprentices campaign
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Gaining new skills
I expected to be exposed to the working world and gain new skills at university, which I can then apply at work – thus, being able to grow academically and professionally. In my first year at MMU, I learned how to code using Java, create my own website using HTML and business/management skills. I apply most of these skills at work and, furthermore, I've been offered training at work that I can utilise at university.
As a cyber analyst for the chief information security officer (CISO), I have three essential responsibilities. As a project manager, I work with 10 team members in change and infrastructure security, ensuring engagement and support for cutting-edge projects. On a daily basis, I work on Excel spreadsheets, acquiring skills in utilising lookups, pivot tables and dashboards, and I send weekly reports to my line manager. I also deliver an update of our group-wide risks, reporting if and when they have been resolved. Lastly, I maintain 200 resources in my wider team by keeping a clear view of the CISO’s finances and budget.
I enjoy working at Barclays as its agile environment allows flexible working with breakout areas, open spaces, coffee areas and wi-fi connection everywhere. The openness and support offered by colleagues allows for shadowing, mentoring and no limits to performing the best you can.
From day one, I received a lot of support from my line manager, technical tutor, apprentice buddy and career coach. I was given an overview of my apprenticeship journey, the objectives and goals, as well as a development plan. In weekly meetings with my line manager, I discuss any questions, objectives and issues. Among my team, I do not feel like an apprentice as I have been treated like any other employee from the beginning.
My favourite part of the job is communicating with colleagues around the world. This ensures collaboration across borders, promoting diversity and limitless working.
My friends have either gone to university or into full-time employment and were sceptical about my pathway choice at first. However, after I shared my experiences of working full-time with Barclays and attending university once a week, many started embracing this and understanding the advantages of it. After my four-year journey, I will not only have bachelor’s degree but also four years of working experience, which can open the doors to many opportunities.
Coming from a family that saw attending university as the only “valid” pathway, I managed to convince family and friends that the negative connotations and perceptions many have about apprenticeships are not applicable in my case. I've never experienced having to make coffee or bring breakfast for my team. Every individual is taken seriously and respected, regardless of their background and the path they took to be where they are right now.
I believe that I have been able to show my family and friends that there are plenty of opportunities when taking on an apprenticeship.
In 10 years, I see myself either working for Barclays as director of the domains I work in now or taking a further step into exploring other career opportunities. I hope to have my own small family and a satisfying job in which I can thrive. I strongly believe that I will still be promoting apprenticeships across the UK as this needs more attention at an earlier stage.
I would recommend young people take a brave step and think outside the box. It is your future – I want you to explore all the options there are and make an informed choice. An apprenticeship, and especially a degree apprenticeship, was the best choice for me as I had already been working for several years after my A levels and found it hard to solely study. If you’re trying to decide what to do after school, attend careers events, conduct your own research and ask questions.
You can enter an apprenticeship at almost every stage of your life – after your GCSEs, a foundation apprenticeship, a higher apprenticeship or, after your A levels, a degree apprenticeship. It is important to point out: no one is ever too old to follow the apprenticeship path.
Whitney Boateng is in the second year of a four-year technology degree apprenticeship with Barclays and Manchester Metropolitan University. She tells her story as part of the Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign