I found the Network Rail graduate scheme by looking at the Times top 100 employers list. Through further research into the company, I was able to see that they are a truly national company with opportunities across the whole country, and that some of the works that Network Rail has overseen are huge projects with national recognition (such as Birmingham New Street, or London Bridge Station).
During my first 6 months at the company, I was given freedom to spend time seeking out what interested me and encouraged to explore the whole company and wider industry (not just stick to Engineering). I had week-long placements at the Department for Transport in Westminster, our European Affairs group in London, media team in Manchester, and Network Rails Test Facility where the cutting edge of rail technology is tested for the UK’s infrastructure. It is this freedom which allows you to make the Network Rail graduate scheme personal to your own development, picking and choosing opportunities that you feel will improve your skills and development for your career to come.
There is also a great balance between structured formal learning and on-the-job experience building. I have attained many accredited skills through training courses funded by Network Rail. The engineering graduate scheme is also accredited by the IMechE, ICE and IET, and designed to help achieve chartered engineer status. Support and encouragement from the graduate scheme in securing rotational placements and a formal structure of setting out quarterly reports and objectives with engineering mentors helps in achieving this.
While the training and support is great, the work itself is even better. A hugely diverse range of works to be getting involved with. I genuinely look forward to coming into work, knowing that a new and exciting challenge will face me. The sense of achievement when you rise to the challenge, and the feeling that you are better today than you were yesterday because of it, really contributes to my job satisfaction. The old cliché of every day is different is true here. One day I was walking along the railway line trying to ascertain the age of the tracks in Leamington Spa, and the next I was sitting in on a Board meeting with the Exec.
Finally, and most importantly to me is how Network Rail treats its people. It values all its employees and it really values its graduates. There is enough support and structure to keep you on the right path, but plenty of freedom to really make the scheme your own.