A-Z Of Employers: National Grid

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The Independent Online

What does it do?

In older, less complicated times, the national grid (without the capital letters) was the term used to describe the network of cables and wires that brought electricity to our light bulbs, kettles and televisions. But, in 1990, privatisation delivered the capital letters and enabled the company to stick its fingers into a number of new pies. So now, as well as the electricity, National Grid (having swallowed Transco), runs more than half of Britain's gas transportation network, and has a chunk of the wireless communications market, including some of those controversial mobile phone masts. Other branches of the business deal with gas meters and liquefied natural gas. And, just when you weren't looking, it entered the American market, providing electricity and gas to homes in four East Coast states, including New York and Massachusetts. And it won a contract to build a power line between Tasmania and mainland Australia.

Vital statistics:

National Grid employs 24,400 people, about 60 per cent of whom work in the UK. Group turnover is £8bn a year.

The office:

The UK head office, where 1,500 people work, is in Warwick. Other main centres are in central London, Hinckley in Leicestershire, Northampton and Berkshire.

Is this you?

National Grid is looking to recruit 25 graduates this September, in two main categories: engineering and commercial. You'll need a 2.1 in a relevant degree.

The recruitment process:

Applications via their website ( www.nationalgrid.com/freshtalent) precede a predictable selection process, involving phone interview and assessment centre. Training takes 18 months, except for those commercial recruits specialising in finance; they take twice as long. All trainees spend six months in each of three different departments, and get 23 days of what is called core behavioural, and technical, training. Everyone gets a buddy (current graduate) and a mentor (someone more grown up) from inside the business. There's also something called NewNet, an internal network run by current trainees for recruits, providing support, information and a chance to network. Engineers move towards accreditation by relevant technical bodies; those in finance aim for Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) qualifications.

Top dollar?

Grads start on £22,000 with 25 days' annual leave, a pension scheme and, according to need, an accommodation allowance.

Beam me up Scotty?

Most graduates will be in their first substantial post 18 months after joining, but the HR department maintains the umbilical cord. For five years after training, graduates' progress is tracked and career development support is given.

Who's the boss?

Roger Urwin, 59, has been group chief executive since 2001, having previously been the boss of London Electricity and held several positions with the old Central Electricity Generating Board.

Little known fact:

Natural gas has no smell. The smell we associate with it is added by National Grid, at special odourisation plants, for safety reasons, so that leaks can be easily detected.