People seem to have two rather diverse schools of thought when it comes to graduate training schemes, some see them as a good source of future business leaders others regard graduate training schemes as delivering people who are clever but not leaders of people. Both no doubt have some valid points from my own experience both as a leader and as a former graduate trainee with the National Bus Company. I have come across some excellent graduate trainees in my time. Some of them are now very senior in big Companies, but many others seemed to simply fade away or indeed vanish altogether.
In fairness the truth is that probably one in three tend to stay the course. When I look back on my three year graduate training programme out of 12 who started it there are three of us who are still after 35 years we are still at it. One is the MD of one of the best bus Companies in the UK. Another was very successful in a Company buy out and moved into a new direction, which is still transport related. As for myself my career like everyone has had its ebb and flow, done some great things which I am very proud of, and had the lows, like redundancy and working for ghastly people. You know the sort of thing that happens to us all.
But, overall in my experience graduate schemes do work. I was very lucky back in December last year I met all 6 of the graduate trainees of one of the UK’s big five groups, they were a very bright, lively bunch of young people and I could understand from the hundreds and sometimes thousands who apply just why these guys had been selected. But, and this is the thing, learning the skills needed is one thing but actually leading people is a different proposition, and that can never be measured until the trainee is actually tested at the depot. Being a good operations person takes a strength of character that you cannot buy or borrow. You either have it and develop it or you do not. And the acid test is that as a young person in their early twenties can they command the respect of an older, male dominated workforce.
The answer from what I have learned is yes. But, it all depends on the emotional intelligence of the person in that position, it does not matter what age or gender the person is, if you have it then you have it. It is a strange one really, I never to be honest sought leadership directly (apart from when at Uni when I stood to be elected as President of the Students Union and won it allowing me a sabatical year as Mr President as Marilyn Munroe famously said)). But oddly somehow I have found myself being in charge of things, be it Forums or committees or clubs etc. I think looking back that spending 3 years of my life in my early twenties learning the soft and hard skills of people management has developed this empathy to bring people along.
However, the truth is that leading people can also involve taking tough decisions, hiring and firing are easy to say but sacking people is not a nice thing to do. I did it for several years and it never got easy but it had to be done, and it was. The challenge that I always have with graduate trainees is are they tough enough and hard enough to sack people and not let it bother them, and until you have done that not once but lots of times only then can you really know what you are capable of doing.
I did my apprenticeship the hard way dealing with complaints and sackings continuously for six years it was horrible, but I did it as I had too it was expected of me and was designed to toughen me up in my formative years. The thing is though it is a very negative experience and you need to be emotionally tough. Funnily enough these days I do not have to do things like that anymore. My world has moved on to a bigger and better place, innovation and delivery are what matter the most these days be it by writing a blog or developing business opportunities for uTrack that is what my career has lead me to, and I am blessed that I am allowed to do a job that I really enjoy doing. It is also a double whammy as I work with some great people who share the same decent values as the rest of the uTrack team. And the funny thing is that of the 35 people we presently employ I do not think there is a single graduate trainee apart from myself.