Of five journalism cadets who started last year at the Herald Sun, only one has been offered ongoing work with the paper, with only one other taking work elsewhere within News Corp.

The Herald Sun‘s 2014 cadets finished their year of formal training earlier this month. Although there is only ongoing work with the paper for one of them, the paper has nonetheless taken on another four cadets this year.

Crikey understands the 2014 cadets were never assured of ongoing employment with the paper after their 12-month contracts expired. Cadetships are often viewed as an extended trial period, but the way this year’s cadetship program concluded was still a shock to the cohort. It is industry practice for the vast majority of those who complete a cadetship year to be offered ongoing work if they pass their cadetship. In previous years, when there wasn’t enough work going at the Herald Sun, the company has made efforts to place former cadets with its Leader newspaper division, at regional papers or at farmer’s bible The Weekly Times. 

Crikey has been told by several sources that this was not done in the same way this year, with four of the five cadets left to fend for themselves. They were encouraged to apply for News Corp positions, but would have to do so alongside external candidates for the roles. But a News Corp spokesman, in a written answer to Crikey‘s questions, characterised the process differently: “Of the five 2014 HWT [Herald and Weekly Times] cadets, two accepted roles within the company. The third declined an offer, having decided they wanted to travel. While we were still assessing options for all the cadets, the fourth and fifth chose to accept offers from other media organisations, and left with our very best wishes.”

Newspaper cadetships used to be a common way for young journalists to gain a foothold in the industry. But cadetships are becoming rarer and rarer. Fairfax no longer offers a cadetship program every year (its last application round was last year, and Fairfax insiders expect it will accept a new batch every two years), and the ABC’s highly competitive program generally takes only one cadet in each capital city. News Corp is one of the few companies still to offer regular cadetships every year, and unlike Fairfax, which tends to only accept early-career journalists into into its program, News Corp tends to employ fresh graduates as cadets.

Last year was the first time News Corp moved to a national graduate system that standardised how cadets are trained nationwide. The company took 14 cadets, or entrants into its “graduate program”, Australia-wide in 2014. The 14 cadets had an average age of 23. News Corp sources Crikey spoke to were highly complimentary of the new program, saying it gave cadets a wide training and prepared them well for the competitive journalism jobs market. Crikey understands three of the cadets not taken on by the Herald Sun have already found work in the media industry.

A cadetship has traditionally been a golden ticket for journalism graduates — an entry through a competitive field into a major newsroom. But it seems new journalism graduates who score cadetships can no longer reasonably expect a formal job offer at the end of it.