A placement makes you more employable than other graduates, says Rhys

Rhys Samuel, BSc Mechanical Engineering .png

Rhys Samuel, a student on our BSc Mechanical Engineering course, was initially looking for a summer internship, however, after being offered a year-long placement with Network Rail, he now has lots of industry experience and a conditional offer onto their graduate scheme.

"The summer I started my placement, I was only looking for a summer internship; however, when Network Rail offered a year-long placement, I couldn’t refuse. I had heard good things about their graduate scheme, and it was a great opportunity to work in a new industry.

I was on placement with the buildings team in an asset management role. A lot of my role focussed on condition surveys of buildings and issuing works orders to carry out remedial work. Beyond this, a lot of my time was focussed on the “close calls” system, a Network Rail initiative to make our infrastructure safer. Between the two, the role involved a lot of data handling!

I worked on a variety of projects during my placement. I was tasked with completing the Wales Route RVI (Risk of Vehicle Incursion) assessment for areas adjacent to our buildings and initiated a Wales-route desktop study into areas under our ownership that may be suitable for Hydroelectric power. I also had the opportunity to carry over a live project, looking at retrofit of solar PV onto listed buildings, as the basis of my final year project, which was very exciting.

A highlight for me was identifying many sites in Wales route alone which may be suitable for hydro-electric power, including 1 site where an existing plant could be connected for a “quick win”, and putting forward a recommendation to look at tidal power.

Overall, I gained experience initiating and concluding a project, data handling and communication, in addition to working on-site whilst being a point of contact for the public. I also gained more technical knowledge, both railway specific and more transferrable – notably on solar PV technologies – and gained experience giving presentations.

Being identified as a key worker and getting the opportunity to continue working on-site during the strictest part of lockdown was an unforeseen privilege, and I imagine very few placement students can claim that, giving me a distinction that future students will be unable to experience. I was also referred to Network Rail’s graduate scheme, receiving a conditional offer, which means I don’t have to spend my graduation summer seeking work or competing with my peers!

The placement has already helped my career – it provided a live project which I used for my studies and provided a graduate offer that eliminates the need to compete with anyone to take the first step after graduation."