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Graduate management training scheme explained

What to expect on your graduate management training scheme

Training, qualifications, the highs, the lows and what happens next: what joining a management graduate scheme is like.
Some schemes guarantee you a job at the end, but others expect you to apply for a specific vacancy.

Training | Gaining qualifications | CSR projects | Highs and lows | After the scheme

Managers work in a wide range of environments: the life of a manager working in construction will be very different from a manager working for a large supermarket chain. Obviously, the typical duties differ depending on where you are working but generally you can expect to attend a lot of meetings, both internal and with clients and customers. It is likely to involve an element of people management.

Your typical day will vary, depending on the sector you are working in; however, as a manager you will be supervising others to ensure an objective is achieved within a fixed timeframe and budget. There may be some, or a lot, of hands-on work too.

The training you’ll receive as a manager

Graduate training schemes vary widely from employer to employer, but all should provide you with the skills, knowledge and training you need to become a successful manager.

Training usually consists of on-the-job training and more formal training sessions – some schemes also offer a mentor scheme. The John Lewis Partnership retail graduate management scheme has, in the past, seen graduates teamed up with a ‘buddy’ as well as having a senior mentor. Meanwhile, McDonald’s has always used an intensive in-store 20-week training course where trainees learn about commercial skills in areas such as finance, HR and leadership. Graduates also attend courses at the McDonald’s Management University. The Royal Mail graduate management training programme has been known to hold formal training sessions in a central location for its recruits from all over the country.

Gaining qualifications as a trainee manager

Some management training schemes will support you through a formal qualification, whether an academic postgraduate degree or a professional qualification through an industry body. For example, the NHS management graduate schemes have, in the past, led to a postgraduate certificate in healthcare leadership, as well as specific qualifications depending on the specialism chosen, such as a Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) professional qualification for graduates on the finance management training scheme.

Other training schemes will end in a professional qualification; two of the most popular ones are from the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and the Association for Project Management (APM). These courses will not only improve your knowledge and skills but also improve your future employability.

Some employers will put graduates through a masters in business administration (MBA) but this is aimed at professionals who have a few years of work experience under their belts. The MBA can be studied full or part time and can take anywhere between ten months and two years to complete. There is also the option of online or distance learning.

Graduates in management roles have the chance to become chartered through the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). You can join this professional body on a student membership while studying for these professional qualifications.

Graduate managers and corporate social responsibility projects

A number of graduate training schemes will see recruits working on a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project or other types of fundraising; this can be a great chance to form stronger bonds with colleagues as well as an opportunity to give something back to the community. The John Lewis Partnership graduate management scheme tends to have a focus on CSR and will see graduates working on a project with a social enterprise organisation.

The good bits of being in charge

There is often a high level of responsibility early on. Schemes often have their graduate trainees working as deputy or assistant managers. Progression can be quick; this is particularly true in the retail sector, where graduates can be running a department within a few months and be running their own multimillion pound store in two to three years. Managers who have come up through the Aldi area management scheme, for example, have been responsible for three to five stores after their training programme.

Starting salaries are usually quite generous and, depending on which company you work for, there can be other benefits such as a company car, health insurance and bonuses for meeting targets or completing projects on time.

The challenges you may face on your graduate management scheme

The job can involve long and unsociable hours – if there’s a project due or deadline that needs to be met then it’s up to you to ensure that it is delivered on time. However, good organisational skills will help you achieve a better work/life balance. Management is often a highly pressured career with a need to hit targets and ensure projects are completed on time.

Some schemes require relocation. For example, in the past Tesco has only recruited graduates who are flexible about their location. If you’re working in construction management you may need to spend periods away from home to be near the site and be willing to work weekends and late nights.

You will have to work and become comfortable with concepts you may have no prior knowledge of, particularly if you didn’t study business or management. You might, for example, be working to keep stakeholders happy or to manage their expectations. A stakeholder is someone who has an interest in a particular project, so this isn’t just employees and investors. It can also include clients and the local community.

When your graduate scheme is over

Some schemes will come with a guaranteed role at the end of your training, but with others you will be expected to apply for a specific vacancy with that company once your training scheme has ended. If that is the case, you will usually be offered help and support while you are completing your application.