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Akif Sarwar

MEng (Hons) Civil and Structural Engineering 5 year sandwich course
Placement with Network Rail, York (June 2015-June 2016)

Akif Sarwar

Why did you apply to the University of Bradford?  Please include the following – your impression of the university and the city and what did you enjoy most about your time in Bradford?

As a resident of Bradford, Bradford was always my first choice University despite receiving numerous other offers. Anyhow, Bradford has a very strong reputation in the Engineering Department and also has very good links to industry. 

Why did you choose that particular course?  What did you like and enjoy most about the course?

As cliché as it sounds, I wanted to become an engineer from a young age. Having moved abroad for a number of years, I was able to witness a fast developing country urbanise in a very small timeframe. I was fascinated with how quickly it developed and the impressive feats of engineering that it accomplished on its way to urbanisation. Due to this interest in engineering, it was really just a matter of deciding which discipline to go into. After extensive research on all the different disciplines, Civil Engineering interested me the most and I decided to choose it.

I enjoy all aspects of the course very much. In particular, I really like taking part in practicals and experiments because they give you a chance to apply knowledge from the classroom in real situations. The classroom aspect is also fundamental and cannot be ignored as you need to have a good understanding of the course content to be able to apply it in the first place.

What tips would you give to prospective students (about the course at the University of Bradford and the university itself)?

Make sure you keep on top of the work. It is important to find a balance between work and leisure as too much of either can be detrimental. Work hard but also ensure you find the time to do the things you enjoy.

What support have you received from Career Development Services / Placement Staff?

The Careers Service at the University of Bradford is very helpful as they offer many talks and workshops throughout the year. The Careers Fair is also very valuable as it enables you to network within the industry. I have been to numerous workshops organised by the Careers Service and also held meetings with them in order to further expand my knowledge and ensure that I am ready to grab all potential opportunities. It is important to take advantage of the services that they are offering if you are serious about obtaining a placement. The work they put in for students throughout the year is simply commendable.

What action are you taking to improve your employability whilst at University?

Summer placements are a good way of improving employability whilst at University. Although I have completed only 2 years of my degree, I have already completed 2 summer placements and am currently on a year-out placement. These increase employability substantially and will come in very handy when I apply for a job since employers often look for graduates who have had experience within the industry. I therefore highly recommend this in order to improve your employability whilst at university.

What advice would you give to your fellow students about finding placement and work experience opportunities?

Apply as early as possible. The earlier you apply the better. Keep in mind that the placement will not fall in your lap. You may have to fill in many application forms along with researching all of the companies, so it will require time. Therefore, you must be disciplined and apply as early as possible. Having secured offers from a number of companies, I had the privilege of deciding which one I wanted to work for. This may not have been possible if I didn’t start working towards it early on in the year.

It is also worth remembering that quality applications are better than quantity. Select a few companies that you really want to work for and do extensive research on them before tailoring your cover letter to each company.

Tell us about your current placement.

I am working in the Civil Design Group at Network Rail, York as a Civil Design Engineer.  On a day-to-day basis, I am often required to complete design calculations by hand. There is a wide range of technical work so it never gets repetitive. It is a great opportunity to improve my technical knowledge and I am relishing the work ahead.  I also visit sites to carry out track inspections and make sure that the structures on track are all in good condition. Design software like AutoCAD and Revit are also readily available so I could use that if I wanted to.

How will the placement year benefit you when you return to study at the University of Bradford?

Going on a placement will make the final year of University a lot easier as I am gaining a lot of technical knowledge in a real life working environment. I am also acquiring new skills and qualities every day and this will make it easier to improve my results even more and achieve greater targets.  Going on a placement is very beneficial and will no doubt help me to perform at a higher standard once I start the final year of my degree.