I'm 18 and for the past 2 and a half years been an Instrument Electrical apprentice for a large oil company. We were in a training centre for the 1st year and due to lack of structure in the program I learned very little. I have now been on site for the past year and a half.

In that time I have achieved my practical qualifications (SVQ Level 3) in less than a third of the time allocated. I also attend night school 4 nights a week for extra credit which will count towards a degree.

As an apprentice I am expected to sweep the workshop and accompany tradesman on jobs. In the end I do not want to be a technician I want to progress through management.

Since I arrived on site I took on various roles of my manager and engineer. Starting with their procurement duties. Which was "a small ball for them and a big ball for me". From there I moved on to researching replacements for obsolete equipment, procuring and installing them.

One week I was thrown a fast ball and 2 remedial works projects wee thrown at me, at once ( I had never done any remedial work at all, except from our day to day maintenance. Also the work was on systems I never even knew existed).

The scope of work consisted of 3rd party vendors travelling from across seas, which costs us a bundle and I only had a weeks notice. One was completed successfully at the time, the other is still in progress awaiting specialised materials. This type of behaviour was unheard of in my situation, with an "apprentice" being given responsibility to deliver. As a result the tradesman were in uproar and not happy at all, this is a problem I have to contend with daily as I am essentially carrying out a role one grade above them, and my position is below them.

At present I am sitting with 2 projects. One to replace an existing analyser on site (Est £30 000) and another to install a complete new analyser system (Est £500 000). I am carrying out a feasibility study at the moment and on approval of estimated costs. I will be expected to project manage both projects. As well as this I have existing smaller projects on the go, which require my attention.

Due to the time it takes for me to involve myself in what "should be an apprentices role" and also carry out project work. I have had to essentially delegate the procurement role to my tradesman (who are a level above me). Ironic, Isn't it !

Due to my low paid wages as an "apprentice" I also have a second job. I am a bar manger in the largest night club in Scotland. I am required to manage at least 6 employees in a fast moving, high paced and sometimes stressful environment. This is not my main occupation however and I am planning on progressing my career in the oil industry.

What I'm looking for is some advice. Possibly for the youngest member of manger tools. On how to take my career forward and progress up the ladder to be the most effective manager I can be. Whether at the moment it's project and later on director.

"Hey maybe even Mike and Mark would maybe take me on as their apprentice and see how far they could progress me."

Thanks for your time

galway's picture

Wow, I thought that I was one of the youngest Manager Tools and you've got me by half a decade.

Congratulations on all of the progess you've made so far, it seems like the the people above you feel confident in delegating responsibility your way. That said, I have found that valuing myself and my own time is very important to ensure that I don't drown in responsibility.

When a new project or assignment lands in my lap, I look at the time and effort that it will require from me and decide whether I can make it a success on top of my current workload. If the answer is no, then the new project must be put in a priority sequence along with the rest of the duties on my roster. At that point, I would either delegate the bottom task (which is a challenge for you based on the above story) or set up a meeting with my manager. I would present him with two options: 1. I eliminate the bottom task from my roster, or 2. I cannot take on the new project.

As difficult as it may be to admit to a boss that an exciting new responsibility will overload your schedule, it is much easier than explaining why you failed.

Value your own time and set yourself up for success.

Food for thought: If every time a new project rolls in you can convince your manager to eliminate an apprentice-related duty from your list of responsibilities, you may just find that soon enough you are no longer an apprentice.

Best of luck to you, I'll be excited to read about your impending climb into management.

jhack's picture

Jay, quite a post. Your ambition is great, and needs to be matched with what might be called patience. I don't mean sitting around waiting, but a willingness to accumulate experience and take things as they come.

It's never a good idea to tell your boss that "I cannot take on the new project."

Advice from an old-timer who was a manager before you were born: The world changes. Your interest in the oil industry could easily be an interest in the beverage industry, or international trade. Don't close too many doors.

Your performance as an "apprentice" will in time pay off. Many industries and companies rely on tenure regardless of performance, and some only care about performance. So keep doing the job assigned you well, and be willing to take on work that makes life easier for your boss. It is the best path, even if it is not always straight or easy.

And do keep us posted...after all, some of us might work for you someday!


galway's picture

Great advice John.

My concern for the OP was that he may be setting himself up for disappointment by overloading his plate.

What do you recommend that a young aspiring person (myself included) do when presented with an assignment that will likely result in either its own failure or the compromise of other projects based on time constraints?

jhack's picture

You need to be honest and transparent. Too many project managers are afraid to provide realistic estimates. Each project should have a plan:
which you can share with your stakeholders. Tell them, "I am young and unwise. My plans lead me to the conclusion that this will either take longer or require more resources than we thought. Is there a way we can meet our goals with our current resources?"

Or words to that effect. Use your inexperience as an opportunity to ask for their guidance. They will either help you put a new plan into place, or they will end up sharing the responsibility with you (meaning they are likely to help).

And if it becomes clear that they're setting you up to take the fall, then you have to decide if this is the right environment for you.


jonathan0104's picture

Thanks for the advice so far John and GALWAY.

Today I got a bonus, it wasn't much £50's worth of vouchers (about half a weeks wages for me). In order for these vouchers to be approved though due to strict controls on spot bonuses, I know this had to go to the head of the Performance Unit for approval. The spot bonus was for all the extra hours I put in on one project (roughly 48 hours on site for which I can't be paid due to my situation). I am now starting to feel that my work is being appreciated though because of the hassle one of the higher managers on site had to go to to get these and also it is unheard of in the last 40 years for an apprentice to get a bonus of any kind.

Today I took on yet another project (I just can't say no), this project was started by my engineer who has researched and sourced all the equipment required. My task is now to install the equipment and integrate it into our existing systems, using external resources. I used no PM software or such to plan the labour just a simple logical step by step process. Once the infrastructure for the system is complete I shall then invite the vendor from across seas to commission the system.

Just now at work I'm having a few problems with my line manager. This entire week so far i have spent on my project work, as I have deadlines to meet by the end of January and I have had vendors in everyday (providing quotes and showing me how their systems can benefit us). When I speak to him to see if I can have a day or a couple of hours to do my projects, he always agrees and say "no bother".
The projects I undertake always come direct to me from the highest level of local management (unless I take them over from my engineer) and my line manger is informed by them that I have projects to deliver. However secretly I know my line manager is cursing under his breath because I'm not out on site contributing to "his cause" and I know this because it shows at my review meetings. Regardless of this I know I am contributing to the "overall cause".

One of the other problems I encounter frequently is when Vendors and Business Partners come meet with me and they are faced with an 18 year old whose looking to spend 10's or 100's of thousands of pounds. You can see the look of shock and disbelief on their faces and those who don't take me seriously usually try to and fail, just by generally being uninterested. This gives me problems with receiving pricing estimations back from them and hence reduced turn around times.

Today my copy of "The Effective Executive by Peter F.Drucker" arrived and I have just finished reading the foreword and I'm gripped already.

In response to John "if they're setting you up to take the fall, then you have to decide if this is the right environment for you". I don't believe they are because the majority of the bigger projects I'm handling just now are Safety Critical Systems and/or Plant Integrity Related and/or Insurance Related. Therefor if I was to take a fall the asset would take a fall if I was not to deliver (I know somebody else would eventually deliver but out with the deadlines, which in safety systems is unacceptable). Also thanks for the compliment "some of us might work for you someday" it is much appreciated.

In response to GALWAY "If every time a new project rolls in you can convince your manager to eliminate an apprentice-related duty from your list of responsibilities, you may just find that soon enough you are no longer an apprentice." Yeah this is my plan, however the problem is my line manager as mentioned above as he is not the most supporting, and also many thanks for the compliment "I'll be excited to read about your impending climb into management", hopefully I make it.

Best Regards