For the last 20 years Network75 has seen students graduating into 100% employment after studying part-time whilst working, graduating with zero debt from fees and having ‘earned while they learned’.

To date, the Network75 initiative has engaged with 147 employers across a diverse sector range and currently has 143 undergraduate trainees. As part of the scheme, which takes 5 years to complete, students spend two days a week at the university and the remaining time with their host companies.

Primed initially with an £860,000 European Social Fund (ESF) grant, Network75 has evolved into a self-sustaining programme, funded entirely by employers who are willing to support students in exchange for talented individuals who will ‘grow’ with the company.

Network75’s research shows that over 70% of companies who engaged with the scheme believe the students provide knowledge, expertise and qualities that non-graduate employees could not.

“Network75 addresses the engineering and technology skills shortage. This combined work and study route helps to create industry ready graduates. Our involvement with the scheme has been invaluable in providing a straightforward, cost effective means of accessing high quality graduate employees” – Debbie Precious, Development & Training Manager, Morgan Sindall.

Network75 reaches more than 60 schools and colleges each year to recruit students with a good academic record and a desire to gain invaluable industrial experience alongside their academic studies. With applications increasing 34% from 2015 to 2017, this is a competitive scheme attracting extremely capable students.

To date every student completing the programme has gained employment, which, according to project lead Steve Thomas, “speaks volumes for its success”. Former Network75 student Stephanie Lewis (MEng Civil Engineering at Capita) added, “I was offered a permanent position with my host company a year before graduating”.

Over its lifetime the scheme has helped create 112 full time jobs, and been supported by almost £9million in private sector funding. Jordan Thomas (BA Accounting at GE Aviation Wales) credits the scheme with developing “great business acumen, experience and a first class honours degree”.

Whilst funding for degree apprenticeships remains in a pilot phase in Wales, Network 75 offers employers and learners a flexible and convenient way for significant numbers of learners to gain a degree whilst working in industry. It currently it supports degrees in: Engineering, Business, Computing, Law and Science.

This article first appeared in the 2019 State of the Relationship report published 19 June 2019.