Network75, USW’s combined work and study route to a degree, is celebrating 20 years of helping students to work, earn and learn.
The scheme was established in 2000 by Steve Thomas and Steve Lloyd, who were Engineering lecturers at the University. Network75’s initial aim was to encourage more students to study Mechanical Engineering, with a target of 15 students each year for five years – hence a network of 75 engineers.
Network75 trainees are able to apply their academic knowledge to real-life work within their host company gaining the necessary skills, experience and qualifications that are highly sought after by industry. Since 2005, the scheme has grown to offer 12 degrees across the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science and the South Wales Business School. There are almost 170 students currently enrolled on the scheme, with 70 companies throughout South Wales. Many of its graduates now also mentor the next generation of Network75 students.
While the Class of 2020 sadly have not been able to attend their Graduation ceremonies as planned, they managed to maintain Network75’s 100% employability rate, which given the circumstances is exceptional.
Throughout the 2020-21 academic year, the scheme will be celebrating its achievements and looking back over the past 20 years. A dedicated celebration page has been developed on the Network75 website, and the scheme is welcoming contributions from all involved since it started in 2000.
We caught up with some of Network75’s recent graduates…
Sarah Liddell graduated from USW in Accounting and Finance, having worked at Atradius insurance in Cardiff alongside her studies as an Audit trainee.
Atradius provides trade credit insurance, surety and collections services worldwide through a strategic presence in 50 countries. Atradius has access to credit information on 200 million companies worldwide.
Its credit insurance, bonding and collections products help protect companies throughout the world from payment risks associated with selling products and services on trade credit.
Sarah said: “I chose Network75 over full time study/employment as it provided me with the chance to gain a degree whilst getting work experience in my desired career – all debt free – and with the real opportunity of employment at the end of the course.
“While working for Atradius I have been involved in helping to develop finance processes for the new purchasing system which was recently implemented. It has been interesting to see the new system and how it affects the way accounts payable process the invoices as well as creating ideas for new procedures within finance. I have also been involved within the customer service project team which has been looking at ways to improve customer service. This has allowed me to gain knowledge of other departments and increased my confidence.”
John Hopkins graduated from USW in 2020 with a degree in Mechanical
Engineering, after successfully completing five years of study via the
Network75 scheme. In his final year John designed and oversaw the production
and testing of a rail line ballast distribution unit, which he also used as the
subject for his dissertation.
While studying, John was sponsored by his host company GOS Tool and Engineering Services in Blaenavon. GOS offered John employment prior to graduating and he now works as a Design Engineer, designing and adapting machinery for use by the rail industry.
He said: “To be working as an engineer on a real job while I was still a student was great preparation for my current job.
It almost felt like being on a well-paid five-year work experience opportunity. My working day changed very little as I transitioned from a Network75 student to full time employee at GOS, which has made starting employment stress free.”
John is reaping the benefits of the scheme by graduating with five years of industry experience, an honours degree, and no student debt. His sister Grace has also enrolled on the Network75 scheme after seeing it make such a difference to John.
For more information on Network75, visit the website.