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WPP Group, the world's biggest communications company, is investing in the future with a program for recent MBA grads.

Starting in July 1996, WPP will offer four three-year marketing fellowships to U.S. students who have just earned their MBAs. The program will provide training at several marketing-related companies throughout the world.

"We're getting people in and moving them between [WPP] agencies and the clients," said Eric Salama, WPP's director of strategy. "After three years, they would have built up skills across disciplines and across geographies."

The program is designed to stem the defection of marketing people to other careers, such as consulting.

"More and more of [ad agencies'] work requires us to think of our clients' problems and we want people with multidiscipline skills," Mr. Salama said. Although the program is open to students at all colleges, presentations to U.S. students start this year at Columbia University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northwestern University.

The four winners will each earn a starting salary with WPP of $62,000, plus a $5,000 signing bonus and up to $10,000 a year toward repaying education loans. After about a year in a WPP company in the U.S., each "fellow" can choose to work in other WPP companies or with WPP clients in other parts of the world.

"No one is guaranteed a job afterward," Mr. Salama said. "But the expectation is that they will continue with us."

Applications are due by Dec. 1., and should be sent to Brian Brooks, WPP Group, 466 Lexington Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017. Successful applicants will be notified by the end of February and start working between July and September.

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