Summer placement at United Utilities: gaining invaluable work experience

Post by Lucy Cheng – Year 3 BSc Geography Student

During the second year of my degree we were advised by the ‘Careers and Employability Service’ to gain work experience and apply for summer placements, as this would stand out on CVs when applying for jobs or graduate schemes.  Although I have maintained a part time job since the age of sixteen I felt that a summer placement would build and develop valuable skills in my desirable career path. However, I understood that the positions where extremely competitive. Several unsuccessful applications later and before I knew it, the second year of my degree was drawing to an end, final exams were finished and libraries returned to peace and calm.  I contacted my dissertation supervisor who gave me guidance on where to look and apply for the experience I wanted.  This proved that you don’t get anywhere without asking! My supervisor pointed me in the right direction which led to me obtaining a summer placement with United Utilities who provide around 7 million people and 200,000 businesses with water and sewage services in the North West.

The first week of my placement was a shock to the system, a full time job, Monday to Friday, in a new working environment.  I was assigned to work in the ‘Drinking Water Regulations and Public Health Team’ who gave me an extremely warm welcome and made me feel very comfortable.  I was assigned my own project to work on for around 10 weeks which involved speaking to people from all sides of the company both on the telephone and face-to-face.  I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to work on a project that allowed me to see all aspects of the company and even visit treatment sites around the North West.  Every day I learnt new skills and built on knowledge of the company, either in courses, meetings or through talking with colleagues and no two days where the same, there is always something new to learn.

During my time in United Utilities I was able to contribute to a team away day volunteering in Quarry Bank Mill where, as a team, we replaced fencing within the National Trust site.  This was a great team-building day outside of the working environment, we did a great job although the next day we were all aches and pains.

During the summer I was also researching for my water quality based dissertation. However, due to the amount of rain that occurred over summer, it was difficult to obtain the data collection necessary to support my research.  With the support of United Utilities and guidance from colleagues in various teams I have been able to alter my dissertation and research a topic to one that is both beneficial to the company and interesting to myself.

United Utilities has offered to keep me on until Christmas working one day a week whilst completing my final year of study.  I believe that the point to take from my summer experience is to never give up on what you would like to achieve and to never be afraid to ask for guidance.  Both United Utilities and the University of Liverpool have been a great support to me in achieving my ideal career.


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