MSJ 2013 Leaver

Malvern Alumnae 100 Bethany Barnes

I think all my teachers knew from that start that I wasn’t going to follow the most conventional path. So when I turned down an unconditional place at Cardiff to study International Relations and Politics and took up a place on the Barclays Higher Apprenticeship scheme, to the cries of “What are you doing?” it really shouldn’t have been all that unexpected.

My MSJ days weren’t always easy: I wasn’t naturally academic, although MSJ’s fantastic support team meant I came out with brilliant grades. I loved the extra-curricular activities I took and they all form a special part of who I am today.

My most important take aways are still the confidence to give anything a go, the ability to spark up a conversation with anyone, and the desire to always leave things better than I found them.

When I left MSJ I really wasn’t certain what I wanted to do, so I took two gap years where I lived in three different countries, and I learnt more about myself than I ever could have expected. When I was ready, I came I home and submitted my UCAS application. I received unconditional offers from five  top universities but turned them all down. I knew myself well enough to recognise that the average of eight hours’ tuition a week just wasn’t going to be enough to keep me occupied. Which is when I cast my net wider and found the world of apprenticeships. They offered me the ability to study and apply my studies throughout a variety of roles, growing both professionally and academically.

Since my first day as a Barclays Higher Apprentice (Leadership and Management), apprenticeships have become a huge part of my identity. Four years on, my world looks very different. I have a First Class degree, I’m a Chartered Manager, I’ve represented Barclays on national TV and print campaigns. But what I’m most proud of is the platform I have to keep educating the world that university isn’t the only option. I truly believe apprenticeships are the way forward. Mine has given me so many opportunities: I represented Barclays in the House of Lords at 20, bought my first property at 21, became business partner to the Director of Artificial Intelligence at 22 (working with big names like Google), at 23 I advised the head of UCAS and the Minster for Education on how to reform careers advice. Now at almost 24, I’m starting to think, what next?  

What does success look like?

Success is a combination of tiny details that bring you happiness. For some of you that will be money, for others it will be seeing the world change because of what you put into it. Don’t ever let someone else define what your success criteria are.

What is you best piece of advice?

Own your journey. Give yourself time to explore and to find out what path is for you. Don’t just hunt for the money. Follow your passions and think how you can make them work for you. Some of the most successful business people on the planet started by doing what they loved and evolving it.