Abbie Housler

A straight A* student from Pontypridd is looking forward to jumping straight into the world of work after receiving a place on a unique scheme designed to support learners directly into employment after their studies.

Despite getting top grades in her business, geography and psychology A levels, 18-year-old Coleg y Cymoedd learner Abbie Housler has decided the traditional route to university isn’t for her.

Instead, she is one of 60 Welsh learners to get a place on the Network 75 programme – a combined work-placement and part-time study scheme run by the University of South Wales which allows young people to work and earn money as they study towards a degree of their choice at the university.

As part of the programme, Abbie has secured a job as an accounting and finance apprentice at Welsh Water. Over the course of five years, she will spend three days a week in her role at the company with the remaining two days spent working towards a degree in Accounting and Finance at the University of South Wales.

The driven teen has long had her sights set on going straight into employment after college, wanting to earn her own wage gain practical real-world experience and remain debt free in the face of rising university costs.

However, having achieved such high grades in her studies, Abbie also didn’t want to waste the opportunity to go to university and looked into ways that she could study while working, coming across the Network 75 programme.

She said: “When all my friends were discussing going to university and putting their applications in, I knew that route wasn’t right for me. I felt more drawn to the idea of working and earning money as soon as I could and didn’t like the thought of leaving university with a load of debt. At the same time, I had worked so hard throughout my A levels, so I didn’t want them go to waste either.

“I wasn’t really sure what the best next step for me was and spoke to my tutors at college about it. They were the ones who informed me about Network 75 and the programme sounded like the perfect solution for me. It will give me the chance to get five years of work and come out the other end with a degree and no debt. I can’t wait to get stuck in now!”

By giving young people the opportunity to put their learning into practice alongside their degree and develop practical as well as theoretical knowledge, learners on the Network 75 programme gain skills, experience, and qualifications in demand by industry, increasing their employability.

All Network 75 students have their tuition fees paid for in full and receive a tax-free bursary, worth a minimum of £6,500, which increases by £1000 each academic year. They work with a local host company, with a network of more than 400 businesses from a range of sectors to choose from.

Abbie, who has been working part time at Benefit Cosmetics while working while studying for her A levels and applying for the Network 75 programme, added: “The great thing about Network 75 is you can choose from 10 subject areas, and you’ll be matched to a company and degree accordingly. I’ve always been interested in accounting so my degree in Accounting and Finance is perfect for me.

“The application process was hard work – I had to demonstrate why I would be good for the programme and then go through interviews with each of the companies that showed interest in me, but it was so worth it! I’m so glad that I impressed the Welsh Water accounting and finance department during my interview and I’m looking forward to my future with them.

“I am very thankful for my business teacher, Clinton Evans for supporting me encouraging me to think about a business degree. He always told me it was a strong point of mine that I would excel within the world of business.

“I also want to say a big thank you to my college tutor, Holly Richards, for telling me about the Network 75 programme and giving me the push to apply. Without her, I wouldn’t have known about it! I’d encourage any other young people who aren’t sure if the standard uni route is for them, or are wanting to go into employment, to look into the programme as it could be the best fit for them, as it was for me!”

Aberdare

Wellington Street
Aberdare
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF44 8EN

Nantgarw

Heol y Coleg
Parc Nantgarw
Cardiff
CF15 7QY

Rhondda

Llwynypia
Tonypandy
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF40 2TQ

Ystrad Mynach

Twyn Road
Ystrad Mynach
Hengoed
CF82 7XR

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