Bus Management Graduate
The FirstGroup graduate scheme can really help you decide what type of career you want to build after uni – even if you don’t know anything about the industry.
Finance Management Graduate
If you’re highly driven and willing to dive into new opportunities in a number of locations around the UK, you’ll get the same brilliant experience as I’m having.
Engineering Management Graduate
I see myself continuing with FirstGroup in an engineering management role, and I’m currently building the experience and skills I’ll need to excel in that position.
Before uni, I wanted to work for a large multinational company, so I chose a degree in International Business. I was really interested in helping companies expand abroad, and in moving around myself rather than staying in one location and FirstGroup will help me do that.
What I liked most about the FirstGroup graduate scheme was that it’s very hands on and practical - you get to have a go at most areas in the company before deciding which area you would like to apply for a job in. I thought there would be a lot of project work, and because my uni course involved lots of group and project work, it sounded like a good match.
There’s also a huge emphasis on learning and development, and we’re encouraged to go on courses for all kinds of things. We get lots of support from mentors and buddies, and I’ve really been able to develop my project management, teamworking, and communication skills, and learn how to work under pressure and adapt to different situations. My plan is to progress my career within FirstGroup, because I know that the company will do their best to train me in whatever area I choose.
My advice to anyone wanting to join FirstGroup as a graduate would simply be: definitely apply for it! It’s designed to make you a well-rounded individual, and can really help you decide what type of career you want to build after uni – even if you don’t know anything about the industry.
For me, the prospects for progression after the scheme look very good, and that’s down to the variety of projects I’m working on for both First Bus and external companies. It’s incredibly satisfying and I enjoy the responsibility!
I went to uni to open up more opportunities for myself, and thought I would decide on a career while I was there. I was interested in finance, so I took a Business Finance course, and the FirstGroup graduate scheme sounded like the perfect place to grow that into a management accountancy CIMA qualification while getting experience in a business environment.
I studied a Business (Finance) HND followed by a BA(Hons) top-up degree in Business. My course taught me the fundamentals of the business and finance environment, how to work to deadlines, and how to integrate with lots of different people. At FirstGroup, I’ve been able to transfer that knowledge into the workplace by working on real life projects and using new accounting systems.
The whole experience has been a lot more relaxed than I expected from such a large company. It’s a very supportive environment, with lots of opportunities to move around different areas of the business and gain operational experience in both bus and rail. My highlight so far has been the chance to get involved in a Charity Challenge to raise over £2500 for Prostate Cancer UK, and I really felt that all of the company’s core values were on show during that event.
At the end of the scheme, I’d like to move into a management accounting role, and I believe I’ll be supported and encouraged to do that. In fact, if you’re highly driven and willing to dive into new opportunities in a number of locations around the UK, you’ll get the same brilliant experience as I’m having.
It’s definitely not an opportunity to miss!
I studied Mechanical Engineering at uni, and originally planned to do a Masters with a placement in a tech based role. But because I’ve always been interested in the transport industry and in operations engineering businesses, the FirstGroup graduate scheme sounded like it offered everything I wanted.
My uni course gave me the basic competencies I needed for this role… communication, problem solving, and people skills… and my technical knowledge will really come in useful later on. Overall, working at FirstGroup has been better than I expected – I got a really warm welcome, and I’ve discovered I have lots of freedom and variety as I move around all of the major business and engineering functions.
The best part so far has been successfully managing the engineering department of a busy depot during an incredibly challenging week. It was difficult, but satisfying, and I learned lots of important lessons.
Looking forward, I see myself continuing with FirstGroup in an engineering management role, and I’m currently building the experience and skills I’ll need to excel in that position.
If I had to persuade someone to apply here, I’d tell them that few other companies in the UK can provide this kind of opportunity. If you’re people orientated, operations focused, and interested in learning about more than just the technical aspects of engineering, it's most definitely the scheme to apply to.
I’ve had a diverse introduction to operations across a range of functions, equipping me with the skills to begin (hopefully) a lifelong career in rail!
Operations Management Graduate
Simply by making the right connections and speaking to the right people, you can nearly always make it happen on the FirstGroup graduate scheme.
Staff Operations Manager
If you’re looking for a hands on, challenging and diverse programme, then this scheme is perfect for you.
Before uni, I was interested in economics and finance, and railways, but never thought I would end up working in the transport industry. I studied Transport Economics at Leeds, which led me to a sandwich year placement with Great Western Railway, then to the FirstGroup graduate scheme, and then to my first role here as a Guards Manager.
My uni course gave me a fantastic grounding in the industry and legislation behind it. And, because I’d already worked at FirstGroup twice before, I knew the graduate scheme would ensure I was treated as an individual and offer me opportunities to experience all sorts of different operations.
From day one, I’ve experienced areas of rail I never knew existed, and I’ve been able to spend additional time working in areas that really excite me. There has been lots of emphasis on me and my development, and I’ve definitely made the most of my skills, including my biggest strength – understanding what makes people tick.
One of the most valuable aspects of the company is the network of friends and colleagues you build. There will always be tough decisions to make, but you can guarantee that you've met someone who's had similar before, and you can call on their experiences to help you make an informed decision. And likewise, after a while, you'll find people are also calling you!
In the future, I’d like to progress up through operations and maybe into franchise bidding, but for now I’m focusing on getting some hands on experience of managing people – all while learning from some very experienced folk, too.
To anyone thinking about applying to FirstGroup as a graduate, I’d say grab every opportunity, because there are so many. If you've got aspirations, there are people here who will help you get there, and beyond.
As for me, I’ve had a diverse introduction to operations across a range of functions, equipping me with the skills to begin (hopefully) a lifelong career in rail!
I didn't ever have a rigid view on what I wanted to do as a career, which is probably what led me to study Law. It seemed the most sensible choice as it allowed for flexibility if I ever decided to change my mind, or if another graduate scheme caught my eye – like this one at FirstGroup!
After uni, I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do but was certain that I didn't want to practice Law. What I did want was a scheme that had rotations at its core, which I hoped would help me find something I enjoyed.
Studying Law gave me a good foundation for understanding some of the unique schedules and terms and conditions that exist in the rail industry. I think a Law degree also does a good job of forcing you to think critically and make connections between different areas of the business, which often work in unison to provide the best possible service.
Since starting here, I’ve developed my problem solving and people skills by being thrown into some challenging situations, and I’ve often needed to think on my feet. And because I’ve travelled and met people from all over the UK during my placements, I’ve also been able to work on my networking skills, too.
I did expect a steep learning curve and some complex challenges at first, and I’m still learning something new about the railway every day. However, the support structure has not disappointed me, and there really is no shortage of people who are willing to offer you words of wisdom and contribute to your learning and development.
The great thing about being a graduate at a large company like FirstGroup, is that the possibilities are endless. For example, I was fortunate enough to manage a team of twenty customer ambassadors for their five months with the company. Just seeing how the team progressed and developed was wonderful to see. When the scheme ends, I would ideally like my first role to be on the front line, such as Driver Management, Guards Management, or Station Management.
The important thing to remember if you’re thinking of applying here is to be prepared to throw yourself into every situation with enthusiasm and a positive mindset. I can't recommend the scheme more highly if you can do that.
And most of all, if there is a particular area of the business that you are interested in; simply by making the right connections and speaking to the right people, you can nearly always make it happen on the FirstGroup graduate scheme.
I knew that not only did I want to be a manager, I wanted to be a good one. That’s why the structure of the FirstGroup graduate scheme drew me in – it seemed like it would give me a fantastic opportunity to learn about all roles in the business.
I didn’t quite have a career plan when I joined uni, and I’d only chosen to study psychology because it was something I really enjoyed. But my course has helped me to develop team skills, leadership skills and a range of interpersonal skills which I now use every day at work.
When I first started at FirstGroup, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I hoped it would be hands on and challenging. I’ve had all that from day one, together with free rein to develop, and all the support I’ve needed to get involved in lots of different projects.
Right now, I run two depots and have really had to develop my time management, communication and analytical skills. And because I’ll soon be applying for a full time Operations Manager role, these will be really useful.
The best bit so far has been learning to drive a bus. It gave me a real appreciation for the work our drivers do, and helps me build stronger relationships with them, and it’s another example of the huge variety this programme offers.
The advice I’d give to anyone thinking of joining is: if you’re looking for a hands on, challenging and diverse programme, then this scheme is perfect for you. You’ll learn on the job, and you’ll be pushed and supported to achieve your potential.
It really has surpassed my expectations, and I very much recommend this programme!
Engineering Contracts Manager
This programme has made me who I am today, and has given me everything I need to build a challenging engineering career!
I always thought I’d end up working as an air hostess, or as a dancer or actor in the performing arts industry. Instead, I studied Aerospace Engineering at uni and I’ve since discovered that engineering helps you develop lots of transferrable skills that can be applied to many different sectors.
My uni courses gave me a fundamental basic knowledge of engineering, and also helped me become the kind of person who can manage time effectively, find information, present work in a professional environment, and critically analyse solutions from a wider perspective.
I knew a few people who had completed the FirstGroup graduate scheme and the challenges they were taking on really inspired me to apply. There’s lots of flexibility and ownership when it comes to your career, and lots of support from mentors and buddies. During the interview process, you even get to have dinner with past graduates and senior managers which gives you brilliant insight into the company culture.
Since joining, I’ve developed my management and leadership skills, I’ve spent time negotiating and making technical decisions, and I’ve multitasked on various projects whilst travelling all around the country.
What I’ve most enjoyed is the variety of roles that you can get into, and because of the commitment to learning and continuous development such as being able to apply for CEng, I can see myself moving into depot management or commercial roles in the future. I’ve even got some fantastic memories of spending two weeks driving a train on a heritage railway. How many people can say that they’ve driven a train?!
My advice to anyone thinking about joining is that this programme has made me who I am today, and has given me everything I need me to build a challenging engineering career. It can be tough as you hop from placement to placement, but it might be the only time in your career that you have the freedom to explore so many different departments and roles.
I got stuck in to the deep end right from the beginning – and I’m glad I did!