Placement Student at Network Rail

Placement Year (10 Months+)
Manchester North West
Review Date
£16,000 - £17,999
Civil Engineering Transportation

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The Role



The Role

Role Description

You’ll take on real responsibility from day one, growing as part of a team while developing core business skills. You’ll learn through on-the-job experiences, as well as classroom based courses held at our state-of-the-art leadership and development centre. You’ll also benefit from exposure to diverse business disciplines - from Project Management and Business Planning to Data Analysis, People Management and Business Improvement

1. To what extent did you enjoy your work placement or internship?

I thoroughly enjoyed working for Network Rail. I was working with the London North Western (LNW) route placed within the Structures team, see figure 1. The route runs from Euston to the Scottish borders and consists of 4,500 miles of track and is the busiest mixed-use (freight & passenger) railway in Europe. During my time, there were various exciting projects that I got to be a part of, which was the highlight of my placement.


2. To what extent did you feel valued by your colleagues?

Within my time at Network Rail, I have worked in a wide variety of teams, working with a range of different people each time. Team work is essential when working for a large company to ensure productivity. Everyone that I worked with were very welcoming and helpful, they were keen to share their own knowledge and experience with me.


3. To what extent were you given support and guidance by management/your supervisor(s)?

I had various line managers during my placement as I moved departments to gain a wider understanding of the company. All my line managers were keen to utilise me as an asset to the team, getting me involved in the running of the team and its’ daily activities. My aim for the future is to become a Chartered Engineer, it was great to have line managers who were interested in my career development and were wanting me to succeed in the little time I was with them. I was able to agree goals, write quarterly reports and set meetings to discuss how this year would count towards my final goal; Chartership.


4. How busy were you on a daily basis?

Each working day is different, one day I can be sat at my laptop in the office manipulating data and the next I could be reviewing a bridge that has been struck by a lorry or trackside examining a collapsed culvert. That is what I enjoy most about my placement so far, I am experiencing events that the University text books haven’t taught us. I am learning what it is really like to be a civil engineer in the railway industry.


5. How much responsibility were you given during your placement?

During my time at Network Rail I was involved in a wide range of activities, both office and site based. With this I was given a great amount of responsibility which made me feel part of the team, from evolving the way major structures are managed on the route to a training scheme to prepare engineers to examine Tunnels. Various projects that I have worked on have been rolled out within the RAM team in Manchester and are used to improve efficiencies and make the workload easer.


6. To what extent did/will the skills you developed, and training you received, assist you in your degree studies and beyond?

Unfortunately, before starting my Placement, I had very little knowledge of the railway, nor asset management. This is due to the University not offering lectures until third year in these topics. This meant that in my first week I was learning the fundamentals of the railway industry and the maintenance. I was then able to apply this knowledge and build on it throughout my Placement through my hands-on experience and background reading.
Network Rail allowed me to gain experience in various departments covering a wide range of activities, I attended various conferences and widened my knowledge of the Railway with specific training.

I decided to take a placement year to put in to practice what had learnt over the first two years of my degree. I am a very practical person and learn best when I can physically see how it relates to the real world. I have learnt so much on my placement so far and would highly recommend a placement if you want to know what it’s really like to be a civil engineer.


The Organisation

7. What was the general atmosphere in your office?

The Manchester office is a large open plan modern office block shared with Northern. The floors are split in to zones and the Structures team were placed over a large area with the other Engineering disciplines. The atmosphere was a friendly working environment, with a balance between working and socialising.


8. How well organised was the overall work placement or internship set up?

As mentioned before, the Placement is organised by the route rather than the National Human Resource team, unlike the Graduate Scheme. This meant the Placement was able to run smoothly as I could approach my manager and discus the work I wanted to carry out rather than a central team organising it for me.


9. In terms of personal training and development, to what extent did the company or firm invest in you?

To work on the railway you need a PTS (Personal Track Safety) Certificate. Network Rail sponsored this for me which allowed me to go out on site visiting various track sites. As a team there were various CPD (Continuing Professional Development) organised for us about various railway related topics, which counted towards our CPD hours for Chartership.


10. What were the perks on your work placement?

  • Flexi Time
  • Subsidised Canteen
  • Sports and Social Club
  • Financial Bonus
  • Company Parties/Events
  • Staff Sales/Staff Shop
  • Above 25 days holiday
  • Working from home
  • Travel loan

11. How appealing are future employment prospects within the organisation?

This year I have felt very welcomed and have enjoyed every aspect of work that I have done. At university you do not gain an appreciation for Asset Management and I think that’s a shame as they ensure existing structures do not fall in to disrepair. The company offers great perks, a competitive salary and a lovely working environment. I hope to return once I have completed my degree.



12. Was there a good social scene amongst any fellow placement students/colleagues?

There were two other placement students within Structures team, however as the route covers such a vast area, they were based in the Birmingham office. We would meet about once a month to catch up on the Placement, experiences we have gained and have a general natter. The Graduate scheme, although separate from the Placement Scheme, try to incorporate the Placement students at events. In Manchester I was invited along to various socials which was useful to gain an insight in to the Graduate Scheme.


13. What was the cost of living and socialising in the area you worked in?

I continued to live in Leeds during my Placement and commute in as the journey time is just under and house and the office is directly next to Manchester Piccadilly Station. I rarely ventured in to Manchester; however when I did, the prices of food and drinks were comparable to any other big city.


14. What was the Nightlife like in the area you worked?

Due to me living in Leeds I did not experience the full night scene of Manchester. The one time I did was for our Christmas party; we went out to eat and then went cocktail hopping finishing at Revolucion de Cuba. Luckily the trains from Manchester to Leeds run late in to the night so was able to get home safely.


15. Were there many opportunities to get involved in activities outside of work?

Network Rail heavily promotes their Graduate and Undergraduate opportunities at various open days and Career fairs. This was open for the current placement students to attend and encourage prospective students to apply on to one of their Schemes. There were also various STEM outreach projects we could get involved in as well as charitable work.