A prestigious internship programme is giving a group of Scottish students the opportunity to gain valuable work experience with top companies before they graduate.
The programme forms part of the SaltireFoundation undergraduate programme and is open to high-calibre undergraduates from Scottish universities in their penultimate year. The students are sent to international branches of influential companies, including Bayer in Germany, IBM in China, RBS Securities in Japan, GSK Singapore, Wood Group in Houston and the Boston office of Liberty Mutual.
Only 34 students were picked from more than 300 applicants for the internship programme, which lasts eight weeks.
The SaltireFoundation is an independent charitable organisation which has the support of some of the world's foremost multi-nationals, the GlobalScot network and the backing of Scottish Enterprise.
Irene Johnstone, executive director of the SaltireFoundation, said that the aim of the programme is to create a strata of business people in Scotland that have an entrepreneurial mindset, in a bid to enhance the commercial performance of the region.
So not only will the programme help the participants to find well-placed graduate jobs, the hope is that these students will go on to start their own businesses.
"Our undergraduates are given an invaluable opportunity to learn from some of the professional world's greatest success stories, and we are privileged to have the support of the international business community in order to offer these invaluable internship placements."
The programme has high standards and selection is based on individual merits, with academic achievement being only one of the factors considered and considerable emphasis placed on enthusiasm, initiative and entrepreneurial promise
A month into their placements, the participants say that they already feel more confident and are better equipped for today's competitive job market than they did before they left Scotland.
Philip Gilchrist, 22, an aero-mechanical engineering student, is currently on an internship with the Wood Group in Houston, Texas. "Already the SFUS has played a major role in giving me many life and work skills that will be invaluable when trying to enter such a competitive industry."
Andrew McFarlan, who took part in the internship programme last year, commented, "My internship at the Illinois St Andrews Society in 2008 armed me with confidence, great experience and a contact book which should bolster my career prospects for the foreseeable future. In this economic climate, it is essential that students are armed with substantial workplace skills to improve their employability upon graduation.
"It really was the opportunity of a lifetime; simply being in an environment where experienced businesspeople are involving you in their work is priceless. The SaltireFoundation undergraduate programme is of great benefit to participants, socially and professionally."