Matthew Nash is a Professional Economist apprentice working for the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities and has been putting everything he learns in his degree into his day to day job, and vice versa.
We caught up with Matthew to hear how he is progressing in his degree apprenticeship through the Government Economics Service.
Why did you choose a degree apprenticeship over a university degree?
I applied to universities and a range of degree apprenticeships. Although I loved to learn, I felt as though I was ready for a big change, and that university wasn’t quite right for me. So, I decided to reject my university offers and take up the opportunity to become a central government economist. I haven’t looked back since!
Could you describe a typical day in your current role?
A day in the life of an economist varies massively. My days typically consist of some catch ups with colleagues (normally hearing about their much more exciting weekend than my own), some time with our stakeholders to understand exactly what they need from me, and then some analysis; perhaps using Excel, Stata or R. Oh, how could I forget emails too? Sometimes I even manage to get out of the office to go on site visits and see the real-world impact my team’s work has on making buildings safer and greener.
Can you tell us about your experience of combining paid work with academic studies? Have there been any challenges?
Some weeks can be challenging, but it is always very rewarding to know I’ve done great work in the office and completed rather complex academic studies. But my manager and department are very accommodating, so if I’ve needed an extra study day to prepare for an exam, I’ve been able to find the time.
How do you find the split of on the job and off the job training?
Being an economist, we are always learning on the job. Perhaps some new software, new economic theory, or ways to model and evaluate the impact of policies. The off-the-job training helps reinforce these ideas, as well as strengthen my general understanding of economic theory and public economics. The two types of training really complement each other, and often make it feel as though I’m not learning at all!
Is there anything you have learned in class that helps you now in your day-to-day working life?
Where do I start? From principles of microeconomics right through to complex econometrics and policy evaluation, the course teaches the theory and ‘how to’, and then we are able to apply it almost the very next day in the workplace. I probably use public economic theory (thinking of market failures and forms of regulation) and econometrics/ policy analysis the most in day-to-day work.
Is your apprenticeship living up to your expectations? What were some of the highlights of the higher apprenticeship for you?
It has far surpassed my expectations. I can work on high-profile policies (often being the lead analyst in the latter stage of the apprenticeship) and be able to apply my learning whilst doing so. Two real highlights for me. 1. The first time leading on the analysis and impact assessment to ensure that high-rise buildings won’t be using combustible materials. 2. Having been able to do well in my academic studies. It can be tough to balance this with work, but I’m really happy with my progress so far.
In what ways has this degree apprenticeship made a difference to you and your career?
Immeasurably so. My career has been accelerated significantly. I’m hoping to seek promotions shortly after I finish my apprenticeship. Having applied economic knowledge is invaluable. It has helped me become a more confident, accomplished economist. I’ve also found friends for life too with other apprentices.
What are your future plans/aspirations? How do you see your career progressing?
I like to keep my options open. I’d love to continue working in environmental economics – that’s really where my heart is at. Staying in government offers a place to make real change too. I’d also really like to conclude my career by teaching A Level economics, although, that is a long way away yet!
What advice would you give to people considering a Higher or Degree Apprenticeship?
Carefully consider want you would like to do over the next 5-10 years. Wanting to make a career change to upskill yourself, or an alternative to university, a higher or degree apprenticeship is perfect for that. There will be times when it might be tough, but it’s very rewarding to be able to learn, earn and work at the same time. And reach out. The best place to understand what it is like is to talk to an apprentice, current of former. They will be able to give you a good overview of their day, as well as tips of the application process.
If you’re looking to employ economist apprentices within your organisation, take a look at our employer information or contact us for a one to one call.
If you’re inspired by Matthew’s story and want to find out more about becoming an apprentice then take a look at our becoming and apprentice page and sign up for vacancy updates.