FOR young people considering options for their future career, getting the right advice from those around them is essential. Key influencers such as parents, teachers or careers advisers have an important role to play in ensuring young people consider all the options available to them.

Ciara Phillips is an example of someone who benefited from the right advice at the right time and is now on course for her dream career in finance after a teacher suggested she consider a Modern Apprenticeship.

Ciara was in sixth year at Paisley’s Gleniffer High School and was looking towards university after receiving a handful of offers before a teacher made her aware of Morgan Stanley’s Modern Apprenticeship programme.

Ciara says the pathway has proven to be the perfect fit for her requirements; providing her with the opportunity to earn while building a promising career in the world of finance.  

The 20-year-old said: “I didn’t ever consider doing an apprenticeship until really late on into my sixth year.  

“I was fortunate enough to have got good grades at school and it was drummed into me that the next logical step would be to go to university. But my employability teacher, Sam Marshallay, showed me a pamphlet for Morgan Stanley’s high school intake week and I found out about their apprenticeship programme through that. The opportunity to earn money while learning in a more practical environment really appealed to me.  

“I decided to decline the university offers in order to become a finance apprentice at Morgan Stanley and it has proven to be the right decision for me.

“If I’d known that apprenticeships existed when I was younger then it would’ve given me a lot more confidence.So I hope my story inspires other people to see that there are other more ways to get to where they want to be.”

Since starting her Modern Apprenticeship Ciara has flourished. She passed her accountancy exams with flying colours, worked on complex tasks for the Bank of England and has excelled at transitioning to remote working during pandemic.  
Ciara, who was recently crowned Modern Apprentice of the Year – Level 5, also promotes apprenticeships at events, including virtual sessions with senior management, talks at a partner school and supports interviews of new apprentices and shadow sessions for pupils.  

She said: “My advice to other young people is to look at all the options available – including apprenticeships – rather than just going down the traditional route and going to study at university. 

“I believe my apprenticeship will benefit me a lot more in the longer term. People should be made aware that there are lots of other routes to get to the place where they want to be.”  

Morgan Stanley Executive Director Zaiga Crouch praised Ciara’s growth mindset and enthusiasm as the key attributes that have driven her progress. 

Zaiga said: “A factor that has come through from all the managers who have worked with Ciara is that she is incredibly bright and enthusiastic and has a huge amount of energy. 

“Ciara genuinely approaches all her roles with a strong desire to learn. In the last role she was in – which was legal entity reporting – the team said she was the most inquisitive apprentice they’ve ever had; she always wanted to understand more and that typifies her approach to life.” 

Zaiga believes the company’s apprenticeship programme has brought real value to the organisation since it was introduced 10 years ago.

She added: “We’ve been running our apprenticeship programme since 2011 and, over that decade, we’ve found that apprentices have contributed a focus, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. They bring a youthful mindset and a fresh, innovative approach to seeing things within the organisation.”

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) supports pupils, parents and carers as well as teachers by offering free, impartial career information, advice and guidance in every state secondary school in Scotland.

Expert careers advisers support pupils to develop their career management skills, empower them to make informed decisions and realise their potential at any stage in their career journey. These professionally qualified careers advisers have a wealth of knowledge which is linked to local, regional and national skills priorities. 

Through school partnership agreements, SDS careers advisers work closely with secondaries to deliver the service to meet each individual school’s strengths, needs and local circumstances including the latest advice on apprenticeships. 

Find out more about apprenticeships by visiting
Assistance helped Jo feel right at home as a teacher

FORMER hospitality manager and PA Jo Neilson is pursuing a long-held dream to become a teacher thanks to support from the STEM Bursary.  

Mum-of-two Jo, from Kirkliston in West Lothian, is undertaking a Post-Graduate Diploma of Education at Dundee University and plans to start her new career as a Home Economics teacher after the summer.


The 38 year-old said: “Having a young family, I couldn’t figure out how I could find the time to do the teacher training.   

“The Bursary has made it all possible – giving me the financial security and confidence to change careers, allowing me the chance to pursue this long-held dream to become a teacher.”

The STEM Bursary scheme, opening again from April 5th, encourages more people to train as secondary school teachers in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computing Science, Technical Education and Home Economics.  

These are the secondary school STEM subjects with the greatest demand for teachers, and 150 bursaries will be available for career changers to apply for the £20,000 bursary in the next academic year while studying for a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE). 

Jo, who has also worked part-time at a cook school, recognises the value her skills and experience will bring to her lessons. 

“I always had a passion for home economics, and I knew I had the right set of skills. 

“The industry experience – alongside my Girlguiding volunteering – has reaffirmed how much I enjoy building positive relationships with young people and bringing lessons to life with my passion for the subject and real-life examples.” 

According to Jo, Home Economics promotes vital skills and knowledge central to young people’s development and future career prospects.  

She will complete her training in June and qualify after the summer.
Jo added: “The teacher training is full on, but it’s so rewarding to see young people progress and grow in confidence. Having completed my first placement already, it has reaffirmed that this is the fulfilling career that I want to pursue.”

Previous recipients of the bursary include former research scientist, Nadeem Kardar, who was looking for a change in direction and a career based nearer his family in Edinburgh after several years working away from home.

He said: “Previously, my career was very specialised, and I moved to different parts of the UK for work, coming back home at weekends. Teaching offers a much more stable career in the one location which is likely to be closer to home.”

Returning to studies and changing career wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the STEM bursary, according to Nadeem. He said: “It’s hard to go ten months without any source of income when you’re trying to support yourself – never mind a family too.  That’s why the STEM bursaries are so helpful. 

“Thanks to the support of the bursary, I can be at home with my family – I am already enjoying the benefits.”

This article was produced in association with Skills Development Scotland as part of The Herald's Future of Education campaign