One company prepares its new recruits for the world of business by sending them to India. Kate Hilpern reports

"If you visit a workplace in the UK, you’ll generally find people approaching their daily tasks individually. If you visit a workplace in India, on the other hand, you’ll find people are much more happy to multi-task,” says Marco Cullen, who recently graduated from King’s College London with a degree in electronic engineering and systems. “You only have to look at their roads to see how comfortable they are with a lot of things going on at once!”

Cullen only knows this because he was recently accepted onto Infosys’ brand new graduate training programme, which involves engineering graduates from around the world spending six months in India. Like a growing number of global companies, the provider of IT business solutions is investing heavily in ensuring that their graduates are able to work comfortably as part of an international, diverse workforce.

The 25 graduates from the UK that have been selected onto this particular training programme recently arrived in Mysore, India, to join trainees from the United States, Japan, Australia, China and Mauritius. The idea is that they will all receive the same standard of high quality technical training, while at the same time learning about the countries and communities around the world that they will ultimately operate in. “It’s already clear that this is going to be a big learning experience for us, both professionally and personally,” says Cullen.

Cullen applied to it quite simply because the IT sector, like many others, is increasingly spreading its wings. “You’ve got China and India, which have one billion people each, coming into the global economy. So the opportunity to experience different markets and work intimately with different cultures was too good to miss. I hope to wind up with both the social and technical skills to equip me to work in a market that crosses national borders,” he says.

But while more and more employers are jumping on the bandwagon, Cullen says all too many are getting left behind. “If you look at a lot of the training schemes in UK companies, they might rotate you around various departments, but you rarely get to immerse yourself in the other cultures that you’ll later be working with. Obviously that puts you at a disadvantage.”

Rick Mellor, who has just graduated from the University of Bath with a degree in computer information systems and is also on Infosys’ training scheme, agrees. “While I was at university, I did a work placement at another global company and found the major issue it had was that the different global locations weren’t that well connected. Communications between them were really quite poor.”

It’s early days on the Infosys training programme – the graduates have only been in India a few weeks so far – but Cullen and Mellor agree the training is well-organised, stimulating and informative.

BG Srinivas, senior vice president of Infosys, says there are clear business benefits to training graduates overseas with peers from all over the world. “A workforce that truly represents Infosys’ global footprint and are able to work together in harmony are more likely to give the end user what they really need. That in turn helps us stand out,” he says.

Even if graduates don’t go abroad on every project they are involved in at Infosys, the chances are they’ll be working as part of global teams, he says. “This sector operates in a very diverse environment and if you put fresh graduates onto these large global projects without the kind of training we are offering them, the learning curve will be much slower,” he explains.

Although this is the first time UK graduates are being sent on the Global Talent Programme, Somnath Baishya, director of the programme, says university leavers from other countries have been going on it for some time.

Interest in the programme in the UK is huge, he says. “One of the fundamental things that applicants told us was that they wanted experience of other cultures and to see some of the world. They felt we were offering something beyond computer science training.”

India was the obvious choice because it is a hot bed for information technology, he says. “Graduates loved the idea of going to India to train, particularly as it is for such a long time.”

Even if he decides not to stay with Infosys in the long run, Cullen is confident that the training will benefit his career. “What you get here is something that will benefit you in any working environment. That’s why it’s a risk for Infosys to send us on it. They hope that you’ll stay with the company because you like it, not because your training means you have to.”