Abadan Apprentice Museum is the second museum of petroleum industry. Set up on the site of Abadan Apprentice Training Shop, the new museum is in the final stages of completion and preparation. It is set to open soon.
This report reviews the latest measures undertaken for the opening of this museum.
Abadan Apprentice Training Shop was established in 1933 when the Anglo-Persian Oil Company had to hire its manpower, except for senior engineers, from among Iranians.
Amiin Zadeh Darvish, director of Abadan Apprentice Museum, says: "The Abadan Apprentice Training Shop was the first pre-employment training center in the petroleum industry, and a product of the 1933 agreement between the Persian Government and APOC."
He said that Article 16 of the agreement required the APOC to launch pre-employment training and prepare skilled manpower from inside the country.
Apparently, up to that time, APOC preferred not to accept responsibility for training specialized forces "because a specialized and educated group would have threatened the long-term interests of the company."
"Experience also showed that their feeling of threat was not misplaced because throughout the period of nationalization of petroleum industry, many of strikes and riots in Abadan began at the training shop or their hostel."
In any case, five or six months after the so-called 1933 agreement, the training shop started work in Bahmanshir Street (today known as Dehdari) of Abadan. A controversial issue pertains to the first name of this training shop and changes throughout turn of time.
Citing evidence based on documents gathered on the history of this school, Zadeh Darvish said: "Based on letters, documents, signs, maps and other documents which we have gathered and which I have to say are important documents found during studies, we have found 15 different names attributed to this school in different periods."
This number of names for a training center may seem a bit strange, but when we hear a variety of names for this place from local people and former trainees or petroleum industry staff we find that this diversity in names does not sound so strange.
Zadeh Darvish said the first name of this training center was certainly Apprentice Training Shop, adding that other names seen in the documents included Artisan School, School of Apprentices and Technical School. He said that official and non-official names were common among local residents.
But residents of Abadan and petroleum industry service workers are familiar with the name of another training center which may be confounded with the apprentice shop.
On this issue, Zadeh Darvish says: "Technical school which grew later on to Petroleum University is another training center which had been established in 1939, i.e. six years after the establishment of the training shop."
He said that these two centers were different, adding: "The training shop used to train skilled worker or technical worker. The apprentices for this shop were chosen from those who had finished their primary or junior high school. They were aged mainly 14 to 16. But the technical school was advanced and it chose students from among high school graduates and finally awarded them certificates which were equivalent to bachelor's degree."
The graduates of the training shop were hired as technical service worker in the oil sector. But if they could manage to continue their studies until finishing high school through attending night courses or any other way they could be hired as employees in the oil industry.
As it was earlier noted, the apprentices had hostel, but they were not served no meal. The apprentices received a sum per month. Zadeh Darvish says according to documents gained from the training shop, the trainees who were fresh received IRR 500 a month in early 1960s. The sum was increased to IRR 750 in the second year and IRR 1,000 in the third year of training. Add to this education materials, sport materiel and stationery.
Opinions are divided on the form of training courses and subjects taught at the training shop. The courses and curricula of the training shop had changed significantly with the turn of time.
But what is agreed upon and proven by documents, as Zadeh Darvish says, is that the training courses were divided into two categories: courses held at the center and courses held during work.
"The school training course lasted three years. The first year included general things and basic skills like melting, filing and carpentry. In the second year, training was more specialized to cover electricity, turning and pipe laying. And when the students entered grade three, they proved their capacities. For instance, it became clear who knew mechanics, who was specialized in electronics and who knew instruments and refinery. It has to be noted that alongside practical courses, theory courses were held in the hostel," he said.
After the third year, the time came for a two-year training course during work. Throughout this course, the trainees were divided to work in different centers based on their skills and the needs of petroleum industry. Of course, during all these stages, the apprentices were required to prove their moral and technical merits.
When asked about the trainers at the training shop, Zadeh Darvish says: "As far as it has become clear from the verbal and documented words, the trainees came from both inside and outside of the country. For instance, we have found letters showing efforts to find carpenter. Or for example it has been mentioned that no trainer has been found in Abadan in such or such discipline and there is a call for trainees from other cities to apply. There are even some cases, the company has requested trainer from the Washington and London branches. That means that the priority was given to local and non-local Iranian applicants. In case there was no candidate they sought foreign manpower."
An important question that struck every mind is to know why the training shop was shut down. Zadeh Darvish says: "The fact is that the decision to shut down the training shop was taken in 1977, before the [1979 Islamic] Revolution. The reason was that this kind of training before employment was costly in spite of all advantages for hiring skilled manpower."
"When the training shop was launched in the early 1930s, rarely could one find educated and trained manpower to be able to work at the petroleum industry. Therefore this industry had to train its required manpower. But n the 1970s theoretical courses were active and we had high school graduates of physics and natural sciences. Furthermore, there were vocational schools that trained technicians," he added.
The documents about the training shop indicate that in the 1970s, the per capita cost for each trainee stood at $375 a year. Multiplying this figure by the number of trainees, 120, we reach $450,000, which was a big sum.
Zadeh Darvish also said that the training shop's building had become decrepit and needed to be renovated. The hostel, which was situated 500 meters farther, was faced with overcrowded streets which made travel difficult for the trainees. It could be concluded that those in charge of educating oil staff had concluded that either a new four-storey building had to be constructed to accommodate all divisions of the training shop, which required an exorbitant sum, or the training shop had to stop operating.
"Finally they arrived at the conclusion that shutting down the training shop was more economical and it was agreed not to admit anyone from 1977 onward. That happened, but it was followed by oil industry strikes and then the victory of the Islamic Revolution. Against the backdrop of dominance of laborers, the training center was revived in 1980 by admitting new apprentices," said Zadeh Darvish.
But Iraq invaded Iran in September that year and not only the training center but the entire city of Abadan was shut down. Many documents have been found from that period. For instance, turning machinery was moved to Shiraz to be under authority of the local branch of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. However, the machines were returned in 1984.
After the end of the war, the training school started work by admitting the first group of apprentices who had been selected from the families of martyrs and war veterans.
The school was operating from 1989 to 1990, but it was again shut down due to high costs, the broken chain of admission of apprentices, and the availability of skilled manpower outside that training center. Short-term courses were still held and from time to time some events like war exhibitions were held there until the site was totally shut down in 2004.
In other words, such advantages as pre-employment training, training of manpower who became familiar with the petroleum industry since very young age and the petroleum industry's assurance of sufficient manpower in the future were overshadowed by such disadvantages as high costs and employment of graduates in other organs, and therefore this center was shut down.
However, Zadeh Darvish has interesting remarks about the second petroleum museum. "The Apprentice Museum is being launched with the focus being on training. Generally speaking efforts have been made to revive the atmosphere of work for the training center."
The museum will have three major sections: the first section pertains to administrative work and has eight rooms. The second section includes the yard and the third section is the shed or the workshops. That is the physical division of the museum.
In the administrative section, three rooms are still used for administrative purposes while five other rooms are used for exhibition. In the five rooms, the first two rooms sketch out the history of oil in Iran and the world. Zadeh Darvish said that this section is designed to reconcile people with the history of petroleum and remind them of the significance of this vital material over the past 150 years.
Furthermore, the connection between important events in the world and oil has been sketched out and put on display in the first and second rooms. The third room relates the story of training in oil, both in Iran and in other countries. The fourth room is reserved for apprentices who have been trained at this center. A total of 1,100 photos of the files of the apprentices are on display there. The fifth room which is reserved to managers puts on display their equipment, a big library of Persian and Latin books as well as information about the trainers and the structure of the administrative system.
After visiting these five rooms, visitors would be led to the yard where they can see how the name of this center has changed throughout history.
The next step is the workshop which is the main section of the museum. In the renovation of this section, unlike the five rooms where decoration has been added, every effort has been made to safeguard the originality of the building. The idea has been to maintain the nostalgic atmosphere in the complex. Even if anything has been incorporated or any design and architecture made show no modern thing so that the originality would not be eclipsed.
"By maintain the originality of this section, we have sought to revive the memory of those who studied there. When the former apprentices visit this center they say that their memories are there. Even descriptions have been inserted in their right place to be reminiscent of instructions given by teachers to the trainees," said Zadeh Darvish.
Another outstanding feature in this complex is the increased number of tools and devices when compared with their number at their time. For instance, if we have five devices in the turning workshop we have brought devices of different periods and put them together and therefore they have increased in number.
Zadeh Darvish maintains that there are still more memories and documents about the first training sector, held by those who had cooperated with the petroleum industry in one way or other. He expressed hope that after the museum has been launched more people would come and donate their documents to the museum in addition to relating their memories and untold stories.
In conclusion, when asked about the date set for the inauguration of the museum, Zadeh Darvish said that nearly 90% of work related to this museum had been done and only some minor issues remained to be resolved. He expressed hope that the museum would be inaugurated before the end of the current calendar year which ends on March 20.