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WILKINSON COUTTS / MATTHEWS INTEGRITY HUB: an up-to-the-minute information mix designed to help you with your lifework and career development in the asset integrity, inspection and NDE industries.

Matthew Petroleum Notes

Graduate Training Schemes
Debunking the MYTHS

I wonder if you’d mind…?

We have a small favour to ask of you. Can you please not go away after reading this article believing that the Matthews Integrity Hub: HEAD OFFICE website contributors don’t like graduate training schemes. Of course, they like them, one of them actually runs their company’s Gen Z Grad Scheme (bit of jargon there) and another started their career on one and says it didn’t do them any actual harm. So, see things with a positive mindset please. Now that’s out of the way, here we go:

Who runs graduate training schemes in the asset integrity industry?

Big companies, mainly. Lots of smaller employers take on graduates into integrity roles but that’s not the same as have a full graduate training scheme for a large group of graduates extending over perhaps 12-24 months. The larger and most comprehensive schemes schemes tend to be run by the oil, fuels, nuclear and utility industries. They recruit direct from universities and splash their profile all over the internet, giving applicants a focus for their applications. Don’t get us wrong, we think these are generally a good idea.

graduate training schemes

What’s different about schemes in the integrity industry?

Nothing that can’t be explained by the actual nature of the business. Because asset integrity is a (relatively) small sub-set of engineering it will always have a better focus but more limited scope than larger business enterprises. This means that its graduate training schemes are never going to be the same as those run by Tesco or John Lewis stores or the teaching profession or the Civil Service.

There are both positive and negative sides to this, leading to a few (six) myths that arise around graduate training schemes. As with all investigations of myths, try to strike a balance between considering them the work of killjoys and those who are just trying to help you avoid getting caught in their gentle jaws.

The six myths

The ‘I must get on a graduate scheme’ myth

Totally, absolutely untrue. Less than about 10% of graduate employment is in graduate schemes; most are employed in graduate jobs in companies that don’t offer graduate schemes.

The career path for life myth

 It’s a nice idea that once you’re on a graduate scheme, you’re on a career path for life. It’s false. Most (80 %+) graduates who start with a company on their graduate scheme will move to another company and/or change jobs within a few years of starting their job. This is particularly the case in the asset integrity industry which is increasingly powered by freelance employees. See our article: Integrity job roles: what’s new? about the dominance of the gig economy in site integrity jobs.

The lots of early responsibility myth.

No way. If you are on a graduate scheme you will more likely be working for a bigger company than if you are in a graduate job in a smaller company. Big companies in the integrity industry have big hierarchies with jobs divided into smaller and smaller bits the larger the company is. It’s called either deskilling, or scientific management (Taylorism), depending on your point of view. Whatever it’s called it doesn’t fit with early graduates having huge quotas of responsibility. Small companies are much better at loading graduates with early responsibility, if that’s what you really want.

The fast track to management myth

As with all good myths, this one has an air of believability about it, but is still untrue. No doubt it works in business sectors such as government-focussed industries, the civil service and businesses that have a large stack of management-types for every one person providing an identifiable service to the customer. Hence there are plenty of ‘management’ roles to stick fast-track graduates into.

The asset integrity industry doesn’t work particularly like that. Once you’ve stripped out the usual HR, finance and other support services then most of those left are involved in the work of plant integrity so there’s not lots of pure management roles available. You might be called a manager but most of the time you’ll just be managing yourself, and maybe a freelancer or two. You might get lucky but more often there’s nowhere to fast-track to, at least until you’ve been there 10 years or so and become part of the furniture.



The Mentoring myth

So as not to be unfair, we asked all our website contributors for their views on graduate mentoring.There was basic agreement that the purpose of a mentor is to help the new graduate quickly absorb the organization's cultural and social norms as well as provide technical guidance on the job. They concurred that the mentor should take the role of counsellor, teacher, guide, trainer and facilitator or learning and that it all sounded a super idea.

What they were short of however was experience of this actually happening in practice. One had seen it once in one of the large oil & gas industry service companies where all graduates on their training scheme had a ‘scheme leader’ to look after all of them (about 15) but that was that. It seems their scheme leader wasn’t involved in the day-to-day integrity projects of the company but rather that of mainly training administration and planning for next-year’s graduate recruitment quota.

Maybe true one-to-one graduate mentoring does happen in the asset integrity industry. We didn’t find it easy to find evidence of however; there were many more tales of graduates mentoring each other. For this reason, we have to class effective mentoring of graduates as something still to be discovered. If it has worked for you then please let us know; we’d love to be able to quote some success stories.

The practical experience myth

Put yourself in the employer’s position. What exactly do you do with graduates on your graduate training scheme? The easiest thing is of course to sit them in the office to ‘gain ‘experience’. Offices means procedures, spreadsheets and meetings; necessary things in their own way but not part of the real world of plant and equipment integrity on site.

To send graduates regularly to site involves big money (air travel, helicopter flights, hotels, expenses, overseas allowances etc) which has to come off someone’s project budget. Project managers are understandably not particularly interested in paying this and so it is left to training department to fund. As a support function, training departments have no real income, so are rarely given much project-related budget to spend. The result…? sit the graduates in the office with procedures and spreadsheets.

As a new graduate you should always be pushing to be sent to job sites where you will get hands-on engineering integrity experience. This can be difficult, but that is really what the job is about. For that reason, we think the claim that graduates will pick up practical experience on asset integrity by sitting in an office is a myth. Sorry.

Graduate training schemes: summary

If you like working for a big company then joining the graduate training scheme is a good jump-start into the industry. The salaries are good for a first graduate position and you’ll learn a bit about how the industry works. Remember however that most graduates have left their training scheme company within a year or two of it finishing so it makes sense to get the best you can out of it when you are there. Expect to have to push for everything, otherwise you may become underutilised.

If you want to know more about how to develop your career once you are already in the integrity industry then go to our Integrity Job Roles page and have a look at the article Integrity Job roles: What’s NEW

If you want to see some really good survey results

If you are interested in statistics about graduate employment etc then HECSU reports are worth a look. HECSU (Higher Education Careers Service Unit) is an independent research charity specialising in higher education and graduate employment. Their claimed role is to support careers advisory services as they guide students and graduates through university and into the labour market. They do produce some excellent reports of relevance to undergraduates and graduates. This is a good one


If you want to check your knowledge for a specific job role in the integrity industry then try our trial technical interview.  Its purpose is to test you on the technical aspects of the job you are thinking of applying for.  There's no time limit on it but expect it to last at least 20 minutes.  After the discussion we'll give you honest feedback on how you did.  Just let us know the type of position you are going for; we'll do the rest and respond with at time slot for you to call us.

There's no charge, but we will expect you to call us at the allocated time and be ready to answer technical questions.

Remember your trial interview is on a purely technical subjects.  We are not interested in you personality traits, do-gooding activities or any wonderful extra-curricular interests you may have.

Technical Interview


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