Jac Morgan is a Welsh Rugby Union Player. A one-time Scarlets player, he's now signed to the Ospreys as its flanker. He has many accomplishments on the pitch, including captaining the Wales U20s during the 2020 Six Nations.
But before he became a household name, he was a mechanical engineering apprentice in Swansea, learning how advanced materials could make efficient use of the world's resources. TSW Training was his apprenticeship provider.
We caught up with him in June 2021, to tackle leaving mechanical engineering and how he applied quick thinking, clear communication and team player skills in the back row.
Let's start with a huge congratulations! In the last 24 hours, you've been named as Scarlets' Breakthrough Player Of The Season and Player Of The Season. How are you feeling?
I am feeling overwhelmed! I didn't expect it at all.
Could you have ever visualised this when you were still a kid at school?
No never. I never thought it. I was going with the flow, one thing at a time. I never really thought about where it could go.
At that age, where did your passions and interests lie?
Mainly in maths. I did enjoy rugby in school, but I never thought it would be a career option or something I could do full time. I tried to do Maths A-Levels, but I only did one year and changed to a mechanical engineering apprenticeship.
Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?
I went to the sixth form for a year, but I was working part-time in the summer with my father on a building site and I enjoyed that more. So after a year of the sixth form, I decided I would go for an apprenticeship to see what it was like.
I found the apprenticeship through Careers Wales. I applied through that and TSW coached me through the testing and portfolio.
What did you like about your apprenticeship?
I liked the job description and the opportunities! I liked that you could work with an inventor and that I would have (CAD) drawing practice. It was just something different that I hadn't seen before. I thought I would apply and give it a shot.
What was your TSW training advisor like?
My training advisor was Stuart Davies. He was good and he came into the picture at the end of my course. Before that, it was Gareth Thomas but he retired a few months before I finished. Both of them were excellent.
We would talk about the NVQ work I had to do, but a lot of the time they were interested in catching up with me. That happened once a month, or every six weeks and we’d talk about what I'd been working on, and what I'd learnt.
We'd reflect on how I was developing and write notes together. They'd check that I was working in line with what the qualification needed and that I'd got everything that I needed too.
Stuart would support me with the NVQ portfolio and health and safety side of things. He was really helpful and supportive.
How did you find studying with TSW?
I was more than happy, it was brilliant, I couldn't have asked for anything more. I enjoyed a lot of it.
"Stuart would support me with the NVQ portfolio and health and safety side of things. He was really helpful and supportive"
What were the highlights of the apprenticeship?
I have fond memories of working away, getting to see how factories in other countries functioned. I’d design in Wales and it would be manufactured in Budapest, so I'd get to meet the people doing the manufacturing, see how it was made and experience the process first-hand.
How did you balance your work, apprenticeship and rugby career?
Rugby training happened in the evenings, so I could work all day and go training at night. But work offered flexitime, so if I needed to leave an hour earlier to go and train, I could make it up the following day.
How did your employer react when your rugby career kicked off?
I joined up to play Scarlets Under 18s rugby when I was 17, and I was just playing casually really. I wasn't playing all that much, but in January 2018, I'd been working for three months and played a couple of the Under 18s games, it was then I got picked to play for Wales Under 18s.
Everyone at work was massively supportive. Anything they could help me with, they helped me with. They were all rugby supporters, so they were keen to help!
"I’d design in Wales and it would be manufactured in Budapest, so I'd get to meet the people doing the manufacturing, see how it was made and experience the process first-hand."
Did you apply skills you'd learnt playing rugby, to your apprenticeship?
I think so, but it was more that the skills I learnt at work helped me with rugby.
I was working abroad in Budapest, in Hungary, at times and the job asked me to be in contact with lots of people from other countries. I got to meet so many people. The experience prepared me for being on a team and it helped me to make friends with lots of the boys.
I found that I was the same in rugby as I was at work - I was confident and a team player. And being a team player is so important in rugby. There's 15 of you on the field so communication skills come into play. Yes, I think the skills I learned from the apprenticeship transferred into rugby a lot of the time.
How important is it to you that you have a second career outside sport?
It's handy that I've got something like the apprenticeship to fall back on.
It hasn't been two years since I finished the apprenticeship and it's all happened so quickly. I was hoping that I'd be able to carry on my studies last year, but with the pandemic, it was hard to get into it.
I'm thinking of picking it up again this September, or a little further down the line and keep building on my education.
What went through your mind when the time came to make a choice between engineering and rugby?
It was a difficult choice. I didn't know whether to leave work or not, because I had everything. I certainly had everything in work, education-wise. They had helped me to progress and have been so supportive. It was a cool place to work and I had a future.
In the first year, I played a season in the Under 20s and it was quite hard and taxing to work and play at the same time. I was tired. But my employer was amazing, they gave me a bit of a sabbatical to go and play for three weeks.
Then in summer 2019, I went to the World Cup and I came back and played a couple of games for the Scarlets for the second team, as captain. I played with a couple of boys who played for Scarlet's first team, and I had another year with the Under 20s.
That's when I made my decision that if I was going to give it a shot for real, it would have to be now.
It was such a tough decision at the time, but I'm still in contact with a lot of the boys I worked with. They still send me messages all the time to congratulate me and wish me well. It's great.
Would you recommend apprenticeships to young people making their first career choice?
I would. Definitely. It's a way where you can work and gain experience. I still get my education done, it's just through work. It was brilliant. I was speaking to some of my mates who have gone to uni to do the same course and although they were further ahead in the course, I was getting lots of practical experience.
What's the dream? Where can you see yourself in 10 years?
I don't know! I am taking everything one step at a time and enjoying it. And that's worked so far. I want to be the best I can be and do the best I can do.
I just want to look back in 10 years and enjoy everything I have done.