'I’d completely lost my passion for academic study'

#InspiringApprentices: Morgan Lyons achieved high grades across the board in school - and yet chose an apprenticeship

Morgan Lyons

High-achiever Morgan Lyons chose an apprenticeship and hasn't looked back

I’m Morgan, I’m 20 and from South East London. I have completed an apprenticeship in digital marketing with WhiteHat at Tandem Bank and have since moved across to their data analytics team. I have now been here for 18 months.

A degree was always what I’d been told to go for but I knew it wasn’t the route for me. I’ve built skills in two fields within one apprenticeship, which is really exciting. There is a lot of work involved in an apprenticeship but it is so worth it. I get to see the impact of my work every day.

More on this: 'I struggled throughout my time at university'

Read more: Parents still prefer university to apprenticeships

Other news: Minister backs #InspiringApprentices campaign

Hard-working geek

I’ve always been academic. I was a self-described geek and worked really hard for the best grades possible in my GCSEs. I achieved high grades across the board but ultimately felt unfulfilled with the list of letters on the page. Once I got to my A levels, I realised that I’d completely lost my passion for academic study and had no interest in university. I always thought that university was the only path and that if I didn’t have a degree, I’d have failed somehow.

Before it was suggested to me by a recruiter, I had never considered an apprenticeship. A friend of mine had recently got a job in London at a big investment bank, which really opened my eyes to the prospect of starting a great career without a degree. I started applying for a range of apprenticeships and Tandem was recommended to me as a great place to work. At first, I didn’t think it would be for me. I didn’t want to be "banker" or work somewhere really formal. I quickly realised it wasn’t anything like that when I was welcomed to my interview by a really casual, passionate team.

My passion was not in marketing

In my apprenticeship, I started out supporting the digital marketing team with campaigns and projects. While I knew that this company was for me, I wasn’t sure if my passion was really in marketing. What I did enjoy was looking at data and managing projects, and I asked whether I could be moved over to data analytics. Luckily, all teams are very collaborative so the process of moving team was smooth and I was supported as I turned my skills to a new specialism. It made me really glad that I hadn’t spent three years studying a degree in marketing to then find out I did not enjoy it in practice.

I found my passion in data analytics and was helped by the rest of the team to find my place. Now I’m responsible for analysing data, putting together reports to support the product teams. And last year I played a crucial role in implementing GDPR compliance. I have a lot more responsibility in a startup than I maybe would have had in a larger company, which is a really exciting challenge. People want to hear my ideas!

My apprenticeship has allowed me to develop my leadership skills, I’ve become a better communicator and I am more confident when putting forward my own ideas to people of all levels of seniority. I know that my opinions will be listened to. I have also learned how to code and use data software, which is something I never thought I’d be doing. I was never mathematically minded but now I’m a confident coder, which is a skill that I can use in many fields. Next, I want to move into data architecture. Leading a data architecture team here at Tandem is a definite goal of mine.

Do your research

If someone told me they were considering an apprenticeship for the first time, I would tell them to do their research. There are a lot of apprenticeships out there but I think if I’d gone for the first one that came along, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am right now. It’s easy to get wrapped up in thinking that university is your only option and, although it’s a great option for developing skills, it’s not the only thing available to you.

Schools and colleges need to place more emphasis on the value of an apprenticeship. I’ve heard that in countries like Germany they use apprentices so much more and have seen great results. I think it’s time the UK caught up.

When you do decide to go for an apprenticeship, remember that it’s hard work. Studying and working full-time is a constant balancing act so you should be prepared for that. Go into your apprenticeship with an open mind and you’ll see so many opportunities coming your way.

Morgan Lyons is a data administrator at Tandem Bank. She completed an apprenticeship in digital marketing with WhiteHat at Tandem Bank and is telling her story as part of the Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign

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