There's an article in guardian.co.uk which discusses how FDM Group, an IT services provider in the U.K., plans to double its graduate recruitment in 2011 and add 1,000 new jobs to help tackle IT graduate unemployment.
Here's how it works: successful applicants receive 12 weeks of training, then spend two years working for one of FDM's clients worldwide, including companies such as Bank of America, UBS, HSBC and BSkyB. With a 16 percent unemployment rate among IT graduates in the U.K., it's hardly surprising that FDM received over 20,000 applications for 500 openings to its Academy Programme in 2010.
But as The Guardian article points out, there are a few catches: those college grads who are selected to the program must commit to a two-year contract with FDM for a salary of up to £27,000, or roughly $42,000 USD. Otherwise, participants must pay back all or part of the £20,000 in training costs. Participants in the program are also required to pay for their own living expenses during the training. In addition, the specific area of training for each person is determined by FDM. In other words, applicants don't get to choose.
For anyone who is a recent college graduate or knows any, this is one of the worst times to be seeking entry-level work in your chosen field since World War II. There are certainly advantages to programs like those offered by FDM which guarantee salary, provide additional training that's needed by employers in the marketplace as well as opportunities to pick up real-world experience with a blue-chip company.
Plus, receiving up to $42,000 a year in salary is a whole lot better than working in an unpaid internship, a course which many of today's college grads have been forced to take merely to remain relevant and connected in the hopes of stumbling upon a salaried opportunity with an employer.
Being paid $42,000 also doesn't translate as indentured service, a practice that was common in Colonial times when unskilled workers were brought to America to work for an employer for a fixed period of time, usually 3 to 7 years, in exchange for their ocean transport, lodging, food and other necessities. Indentured servants weren't paid wages.
Still, entrants in the FDM program have to abide by the requirements imposed. The Guardian article includes the following statement about the FDM requirements: "This inflexibility has infuriated some contributors to online forums who reckon that graduates should preserve their liberty and market themselves more lucratively." The article also points to one participant in the program, Jay Carey, a University of Brighton computer science grad, who is now a net developer for UBS in New York and has been able to add Java and C Sharp experience to his CV.
How do you see it? Are these types of programs reflective of the "new normal" in today's labor market where job applicants, including college grads, have to recalibrate their expectations? Or is it a blow against free market pursuit?