The graduates paying £3,250 to learn how to work at a start-upIS EIGHT-WEEK “PAY-TO-LEARN-TO-EARN” COURSE A RIP-OFF?

Graduate Fog is increasingly concerned about the rise in post-uni, pre-job training courses being targeted at recent graduates struggling to find a paid, permanent job in their chosen field. The latest is an eight-week programme where participants are charged up to £3,250 to be taught the skills they need to work at a start-up (new) company. Er, couldn’t they learn that by, like, doing a paid job at such a company?

Already running in Boston, New York and Chicago, Startup Institute – which calls itself a “career accelerator” – is expanding to London and Berlin, which both have fast-growing start-up scenes. Targeting recent graduates, it aims to teach the skills needed to become model start-up employee material – via an “industry-built” curriculum that will be responsive to the exact needs of the hiring partners that work directly with Startup Institute.

As well as questioning the ethics of this, technology website TechCrunch challenged the logic behind it. Technology start-ups are desperate to hire new talent, so they argued it was “counter-intuitive” to ask young jobseekers to pay for their own training. In London, Startup Institute offers a discounted fee of £2,600 for students who pay up front – but those who can’t find the money pay £3,250 for the course, via an 18-month payment plan.

The core idea behind Startup Institute is that, in its own words, “traditional workplace skills don’t always transition well into startup culture, but that doesn’t mean that talented people should dismiss job opportunities at startups”. They say: “The program is intentionally designed to mimic life within an actual high-growth company.”

The Startup Institute insists its eight-week, full-time bootcamp will help graduates develop the “soft” skills needed to make this cultural shift and become valuable startup employees. They will also learn more specialist “hard” skills, choosing one of the following tracks: Product and design, technical marketing, sales and account management, and web development.

Aaron O’Hearn, CEO and co-founder of Startup Institute, told TechCrunch:

“Startup Institute’s goal is to make the ecosystem better by preparing individuals for a rewarding career within a high-growth company, as well as providing a pipeline of talent to the startup community.

“It’s important that we have active, working relationships with hiring partners because it helps ensure students develop skills which are relevant and in-demand in the current, local startup economy. The coal-face input from hiring partners and the community is crucial to the success of our students.

“Our goal is to orient people for the life they’ll lead within a high-growth company — that means preparing them for learning on their own, becoming more self-directed, and leading and managing through uncertainty and risk.

Graduate Fog is increasingly concerned that what we call “pay-to-learn-to-earn” courses are becoming normalised as an add-on to a regular degree which has already cost graduates tens of thousands of pounds.

They also seem to be targeted squarely at graduates who are already struggling to find paid work, whether through their lack of a contacts or inability to do long unpaid internships in London. While these courses also cost money, they may be perceived as a quick-fix investment by graduates who are desperate to find a way into work. These courses also reinforce the (inaccurate) idea that graduates’ work is of no value without yet more experience and qualifications.

Employers and training providers must remember that graduates have already spent tens of thousands of pounds on their degree, and may already have worked for free for several months either as part of their course or as an unpaid intern. The list of requirements that young people need on their CV just to be considered for a paid job seems to lengthen every day. And it’s not as if the jobs at the end of them are brilliantly paid either. Stop. The. Madness.

Seen any dodgy pay-to-earn-to-learn courses? Contact Graduate Fog so we can check them out. We’ll let you know what we find…

Does it sound like a rip-off, or could the experience be useful to young jobseekers? Do you think the course will be popular among graduates? Is it fair to ask young jobseekers to pay for their own training, or should employers foot the bill to make graduates “work-ready” for a job at their company?

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