The Digital Skills Acadamy And Free Labour


Free, you say?

Anonymous writes:

For the second time I’ve come across the press notice (above) from the Digital Skills Academy, highlighting not the fact that WebElevate is a springboard programme set up to get the long-term unemployed back to work through upskilling and industry experience, but that businesses can get their digital products developed for free by these students.
What strikes me – and upsets me – most is how brazen the DSA are in telling the world that this programme is about getting unemployed people to work for free.
I’m sick to death of hearing government representatives and the business elite prattle on about Ireland’s burgeoning tech sector when I’m all too aware of the reality of exploitation that goes with it.
Graduates of the WebElevate programme – talented and accomplished as they may be – have nothing to look forward to but recruitment ads for social media interns, unpaid content roles or an entry-level position that requires a high-level skillset all because someone in HR thinks, ‘Sure any tech-savvy teenager can code so why
should I pay someone good money to do it.’
Developers, programmers, web designers, content strategists – they have enough trouble trying to get Irish businesses to cop on and realise that their work is valid, not something that any old intern can do.
WebElevate and other programmes like it only serve to condemn those trying to break into the tech industry to a career where they will have to struggle to get paid for work that they produce.


Companies invited to develop digital products for free through Digital Skills Academy’s WebElevate (Business and leadership)

34 thoughts on “The Digital Skills Acadamy And Free Labour

  1. paul

    everyone should work for free for these ‘job creators’ – just ask Bill Cullen. Enda just told the dail that students who still havent gotten their grant are ‘choosing’ to emigrate.

  2. Derek Bonsai

    Know someone who works up there who mentioned this fact before. Apparently there are lots of really talented people with a great set of skills up there; its a fantastic resource for companies who get access to a highly-skilled pool of people for nothing. The argument from the the DSA will be about experience and industry contacts. Would be interesting to see how many go on to get employment after the course. Its a publicly funded course so the figures must be there, right?

    1. webelevateman

      I heard it was something like 30% of people from the first course are now emplyed. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they were hired by an industry partner though.

  3. webelevateman

    I’m enrolled in this course and know a few people who have completed the course. A few are of the same opinion that it’s a bit of a scam to be developing products for free. The rest are just happy do be doing a course that’s actually relevant.

    Some of the companies applying are start ups looking for a leg up, but there’s plenty who are very big and established such as BT and Electric Ireland.

    I’m of the opinion that if it’s worth doing, then you should be paid for it. I think anonymous is right in saying that it does somewhat degrade the people already doing this work to a competent level to give these tasks to people who have only just gained minimal skills in this area.

  4. Dave

    My company is a start-up that is applying to this programme. We would hopefully provide someone with experience and if all goes well take them on full time. So whats not to like about it? I know the people who run this course and you certainly would not describe them as parasitic!

    Is this more of Broadsheet’s vendetta against Jobsbridge surfacing again.

    1. Derek Bonsai

      I think the point was that startups are fine but the big companies like BT and electric Ireland etc are getting free-labour.

      1. Tommy

        Why is it fine for startups to not pay their staff? If I wanted to start up a new company should I expect free office rental for the first year till I get off the ground? Should I be expecting freebies from suppliers? No, startups are about building viable businesses not year long charity experiments.

      2. Paul Byrne

        I worked on the BT project and have a low opinion of the corporate mentality after over 15 years working with several of them. While I appreciate the concerns people have of large companies taking advantage of free labour, I feel it’s important to remember that the PR for the college from working with these companies is as important to the continuation of Webelevate as access to the college’s resources is to startup companies.

      3. fFs

        it’s also really good to have a mix – being directly involved with a new BT/Electric Ireland campaign is some impressive experience no?

    2. webelevateman

      My comment above might have been a bit harsh. Yes, the people who run the course are very professional and certainly not in it to feck anyone over.

      There is a debate to be had about it, but it’s not a cut and dry job bridge rehash. It’s certainly a cut above anything Fás has ever offered.

      1. Derek Bonsai

        From what I know about it, its pretty well run by well intentioned people. Unfortunately, the pervasive attitude coming from the top down (government etc) is that labour and skills are to be de-valued to keep companies and people happy. I certainly don’t think that the people running it are trying to screw people over. I think they should do more to engage with startups over and above companies like BT etc.

      2. Dave

        Yes I definitely think there is a debate around the programme if the likes of well resourced companies such as BT and Electric Ireland are availing of it.
        I would view more of an opportunity for start-ups who have established a direction and an offering to expand that by taking on one of these graduates.
        It can be hard for start-ups at the moment to avail of funding if an enterprise funding agency does not think it’s either sexy or will scale to employ 100 people in 3 years (Not actually a joke!) so an opportunity like this is gold dust to some companies.
        My company builds educational apps and because it does not sell in the tens of thousands government agencies have continually turned us down.

  5. Leela2011

    Urgh it’s a difficult one. don’t like the sound of big companies using free resources but sounds like it’s a great companion for start-ups, as Dave mentions

  6. Cathal

    I’ve completed this course and am currently job-seeking. The digital products that we produced were free but in return the industry project gave us experience in all areas of software development and constituted just one of three semesters. I looked at it as just being in college studying and unpaid like most students do. My hope know is that my new found skills will help me land my dream job.

  7. uberest

    Despite this article being trolling of the worst kind I’m going for the bait. As a graduate of the WebElevate program I can categorically refute all of the claims made here. The course is not about “getting unemployed people to work for free” but providing real world experience. It’s exactly because certain people think “any tech-savvy teenager can code” that it is extremely important to have real world, high level experience as opposed to something that you developed for your uncles coffee shop.
    I’ve recently started working in a well paid position (1.5 times what I earned in my last job which was nowhere near the tech sector) as a direct result of the course. Many of my classmates have had the same experience. The attitude of “nothing to look forward to” that’s expressed here is one more item on the negative side of the ‘What’s wrong with Ireland’ scale. A bit of f**king optimism never hurt anyone.

  8. C Sharp

    Positives: industry experience for students and cheap prototypes for start ups.

    Negatives: less jobs for graduates and businesses who depend on such (paid) work to earn a living; shoddy prototypes.

  9. Sido

    “Digital Playgrounds” – they got this idea from the latest run of “The Thick of It”.
    Ireland imitating English Comedy.

  10. sparklehorse

    Free labour for start-ups is almost as bad in my opinion? If a start-up can’t get investment to pay for a product to be developed then they probably don’t have a viable product or service in the first place. There is countless different ways of sourcing funding for start=ups if the product is viable.

    As for bigger companies they are taking the piss but at least it looks good on a persons CV to have done work for them.

  11. Paul Byrne

    I am a graduate of webelevate and couldn’t agree less with the article above. The course was fantastic and the skills I’ve learned have already served me well in securing employment and that is as a direct result of contacts I made in The Digital Hub and through the Digital Skills Academy.

    The college themselves are employing people from webelevate 1.o as teaching assistants for the third iteration of the course (webelevate 2.0) which is great news for the recent graduates and a huge bonus for the current students.

    My future is very bright and I attribute that to Webelevate and the Digital Skills Academy.

  12. Paul Q

    Wow. That was some serious venom by “Anonymous’. Or misguided, I’m not sure.

    We’re a tech company that’s hiring. Any potential hire who can point to something they actually did during their course – especially with an actual industry application (as opposed to an academic project) – is 10x more attractive to us. It allows us see their skills. It’s the best way to assess new graduates. Otherwise, we’ll only hire people with the “2 years industry experience’. And these WebElevate grads would be almost impossible to assess.

    Seems this element of WebElevate lets people get great experience. The idea that it replaces “real jobs” is bulls**t. Do you really thing BT will stop hiring developers and turn their IT infrastructure into a part time student project?

    Tesco hiring shelf stackers through JobBridge – that’s one thing. This is something completely different. It’s a disservice (and a bit of an insult) to WebElevate students and organizers to lump them together.

    Believe me, developers,web designers, UX/UI people who can do their jobs well are not getting undercut by teenagers, or by this program.

  13. Bobs Fettucine

    Presumably there’s nothing to stop the people on this course from developing their own ideas or forming their own startups? Other than the long hours, backbreaking work and complete lack of job security.

  14. DSA Student

    I’m a current student of DSA and have been debating this issue myself, I purposefully picked a not for profit company for the project mentioned above because I didn’t want to work for a large company. Our team are building an app for a start up and we have so many highly skilled people on our team – it’s annoying to think we’re working for free, especially as I’m working full-time now. But I suppose what’s getting me through is looking at it positively as more experience, making good connections and a chance to improve skills however I can.

    The course has definitely had its ups and down, much of it is badly run and there were lots of issues that were so frustrating about it, however it is only in its second year and hopefully it will improve with time. I think a lot of people have gotten jobs since starting, whether that’s due to the course, I don’t know, it sounds good in interview, I know that much. Stats wouldn’t help, I was contacted after I informed them that I had gotten a job and they were only interested in finding out if the course had contributed, not about me missing classes etc. So I don’t doubt they put me down as a success story, but the course itself didn’t get me my job, it might have helped a bit, but it was my previous experience and education in my opinion.

    It was definitely better for me to be doing while I couldn’t get a job, and it’s much, much more worthwhile than FÁS courses – it was positive to see so many people who were out of work, but really determined and trying to change their situation.

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