Our Finance scheme for graduates

Who you are

You have an analytical mind and a flair for financial planning. You’re enthusiastic about your work, enjoy collaborating with others and have the skills and ability to communicate to a variety of different audiences.

How long is the scheme?

From two to two and a half years

Where you’ll be based

  • First ten to twelve months in Milton Keynes with a two to three month placement in Manchester.
  • Up to 1 and a half years based in one of our regional offices including Scotland and Wales.
  • College is based in Milton Keynes for the duration of the scheme.

What you’ll be doing

Rotational placements, with college day release each week (on average). You will be involved in a variety of periodic management accounting activities such as balance sheet reconciliations, variance analysis and reporting and business partnering with non-finance functions as well as project related tasks. Depending on eligibility, finance graduates are enrolled on the government’s level 7 apprentice programme.

Entry requirements

  • 2:2 in any degree subject
  • A-level Maths is desirable but not essential

What professional qualifications could you gain?

  • Associate Chartered Management Accountant (ACMA)
  • Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)

What opportunities are available at the end of the scheme?

The Finance scheme is a very successful one, with a lot of graduates now holding senior positions within the function. This is because we recognise, develop and promote talent. Previous graduates have gone on to become members of the Finance talent development scheme and to further their own professional development, with Network Rail as a certified body.

Why you should choose this scheme

The scheme gives graduates a unique opportunity to see many parts of the business while making a contribution from early on. The study support is generous compared to other finance schemes, with time and space given to make sure graduates can get through the qualification with minimal pressure. Former graduates and senior finance leaders run the scheme and all graduates are encouraged to contribute to improving and developing the scheme.

Hear from our recent graduate:

View our application process

I look forward to going into work every morning as I know I’m going to be challenged and surrounded by people who will support me. If you want to be given endless opportunities and responsibility by a company who supports enthusiasm and new ways of thinking, then Network Rail really is for you.

Samantha Barker

Tell us about a project you have worked on

Asset Disposal Project for Network Rail Property – The challenge was to provide evidence that the disposal of some of our assets was worthwhile, as it would generate an additional source of income for Network Rail.

How did you solve the challenge?

I worked with a previous graduate on the scheme focusing on asset disposal from the Anglia Route. My responsibility was to get in touch with Route Asset Managers and Financial Controllers in order to identify the current costs associated with the assets and whether we could justify disposing of them.

What have you enjoyed most about working for Network Rail?

I have enjoyed the variety of work. Part of the Graduate scheme includes flexibility to do different placements throughout the scheme which gives graduates the opportunity to experience difference parts of the business and gain maximum exposure to these areas.

The people I have met and worked with have been incredibly friendly and offered any support where they can if needed.

Why should other graduates/ undergraduates choose the Network Rail graduate/ undergraduate schemes?

From my personal experience, Network Rail provides one of the most advantageous finance graduate schemes. Flexibility of placements means personal reasons for preference of where to work are met whilst still getting the right exposure within the business.

We are provided with a lot of educational support in order to get through our professional exams with entitlement to a number of study leave days, which other finance graduate schemes do not provide.

Attitude to challenge and change is very apparent within the scheme as  work is constantly being put in place in order to continuously develop and improve the scheme. This has been evident since I’ve been on the scheme.

The graduate scheme provides tremendous support in personal development over the course of ones career, with managers and mentors investing their time to help identify and work on the graduates’ strengths and development areas.

Tell us about a project you have worked on

Continuous Improvement Validation within Infrastructure Project (IP) Track – Continuous improvement (CI) had been introduced  into IP Track, with the majority of my colleagues attending dedicated training. The idea is that small incremental changes to the way we work or if a process can be improved this can save time, money, the environment, or all of the above! The delegates from this training then returned to their work place or depot and began their CI projects.

The response to the scheme was fantastic, however the problem arose that there was no validation process in place for the money they were claiming to have saved. Large numbers were being reported, and it was particularly challenging that non-financial people were allocating numerical savings to their projects.

How did you solve the challenge?

I was involved in a project with the CI team to put a validation process in place so we had some assurance around the numbers being reported at the executive level.

I liaised with people throughout the business to understand how we could make it clearer for non-financial people to calculate their project’s benefit. I created a process map for the validation process and presented this back to the CI team, which is made up of representatives from throughout IP Track. I was then involved in the implementation of this project, ensuring the new process was being followed.

We now do not report the saving to the business until this number has been validated by either a newly trained CI representative or, for larger savings, a member of the IP Track finance team. Not only for reporting but this has now prompted people to come forward with their projects since they are not required to produce estimated savings with no help from finance.

What do you enjoy most about working for Network Rail?

I enjoy the relevance of the work I do, and how I can link this back to more than 4 million people travelling by rail every day. The projects Network Rail carries out are very applicable to everyday life. For example every time I walk through the new Birmingham New Street I smile because I know that’s something I would have contributed to! Not every company can say they make front page news with their decisions.

I also think the culture of the organisation is absolutely vital to how much I enjoy my job. The fact you are given five days of paid volunteer leave to go and make your community a better place. Flexible working is integral within the culture, so my colleagues can go and watch their children’s sports day and simply work from home in the afternoon rather than booking annual leave. This culture is very supportive, and if you’re having a particularly difficult day with a challenging piece of work, it means you still go home with a smile.

The environment of learning is particularly beneficial to graduates, and this is something which has affected my enjoyment massively. The graduate scheme is well established within the finance community and therefore people understand the aim of the scheme and try and ensure you learn as much as possible from a placement. There is also a fantastic support network of past graduates; you will find somebody from the graduate scheme in most teams. They can share their own experiences and insight with you and understand best the unique position a graduate has in a team – they ensure you are supported in any work they give you or can go back to basics if need be.

Why should other graduates/ undergraduates choose the Network Rail graduate/ undergraduate schemes?

I think the enthusiasm most people have for their work within Network Rail really sold it to me. When you walk into one of the offices you can feel the positive buzz within the building which is fantastic when you come into work every day. The fact that many of my colleagues have been in the business for over ten years shows what a positive environment it is to work in.

The culture for the graduate scheme is great, and you not only learn about finance but about the business itself. How applicable what we do is to the general public is a great motivator, if you tell people where you work they will have heard of us! There are 4 million people travelling on the rail network every day and you can say your day-to-day work contributes to not only that journey but their safety.

Tell us about a project you have worked on

Planning and Delivery of Safe Work (PDSW) – Planning and Delivery of Safe Work is a reform of how projects are planned and delivered in a safer manner. As the finance business partner for Infrastructure Projects HQ, I was required to devise a control process for the periodic forecasted training expenditure to ensure the project remained within budget. As a new graduate in the company, not only being involved but having such an important role in one of the 5 “must wins” at Network Rail was a challenging yet rewarding experience.

How did you solve the challenge?

Due to the scale of the project, the number of people involved was vast and varied including members of the commercial team, project managers, engineers and planners. The key to setting up a control process is to develop an appreciation of factors that could result in deviations from the forecast. By setting up meetings  and closely collaborating with the other teams, I was able to develop a better understanding of the costs involved and identify potential threats. The control process I set up was approved by the Infrastructure Projects HQ Finance Director and is currently in use at a national level.

What have you enjoyed most about working for Network Rail?

For me, the most enjoyable aspect of working at Network Rail is the people. Coming in as a graduate in such a large organisation can be daunting but right from the very beginning, you feel a valued, respected, and trusted member of the team. The responsibilities given can be challenging but are designed to assist your development. Everyone shares the same vision and is dedicated to delivering the highest quality of service.

Why should other graduates/ undergraduates choose the Network Rail graduate/ undergraduate schemes?

What sets the Network Rail finance graduate scheme apart from other graduate schemes is the number of opportunities available, such as Group Investment, Treasury, IT and Tax. This is not limited to functions within Network Rail, offering additional opportunities to work with external agencies. There are ample opportunities to complete a secondment at other public bodies such as HM Treasury or the Department for Transport (DfT) or externally at one of the train operating companies.

With many offices across the country, the scheme also provides an opportunity to experience living and working in different locations throughout the country, from Glasgow to Bristol.

Your development is key and as such, you are assigned a buddy, a recent graduate and a mentor, a senior member of the organisation, who are always available to help with any queries or advice. Network Rail works hard to allow you to develop and learn in a hands-on approach, in order to reach your full potential. There is so much more to working in finance at Network Rail than what you might think.