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Students step up to the mark

01 September 2010

Students from across the Highlands and Islands taking part in this year's summer STEP programme will discover who is the Most Enterprising Student at an event in Inverness today (Wednesday September 1).

The event at the Columba Hotel in Inverness concludes the STEP Summer Placement Programme which has seen 44 university students gain industry experience with businesses and organisations across the Highlands and Islands from Bute to Skye and Caithness.

The students taking part will showcase their projects and will deliver short presentations on how their placements have benefited the business they have been working with. There were also local finals in Lerwick and Stornoway.

HIE provided a 50 per cent wage subsidy for the Highlands and Islands based placements through strategic assistance by the European Regional Development Fund. The scheme aims to match undergraduates with related businesses for an eight-week paid work placement over the summer holidays. The businesses benefit from an additional member of staff who carries out a specific project while the students gain invaluable industry experience related to their studies.

Among those taking part in the Highlands and Islands was Linzi Ronald who took up a placement with Three Chimneys, a restaurant and five star accommodation at Loch Dunvegan. Linzi specialises in HR with Tourism at the Strathclyde Business School and assisted with a project to overhaul, update and renew HR and Health & Safety procedures. This project include updating all employee files from paper to new computer software, renewing all Employee Contracts of Employment and instigating updated disciplinary procedures, such as creating a new staff handbook.

Director and Owner of the Three Chimneys, Shirley Spear, said: "We are in the throes of upgrading all of our HR systems which was ideal for Linzi to put her knowledge into practical experience by assisting us with the work involved over the summer. It also meant that she could come home to Skye over the summer, live at home, earn some money and gain important, practical experience in her relevant field of study.

"Linzi has been working together with our Front Office Manager and her team at The Three Chimneys to put these new systems in place.

"I think that the STEP programme is a brilliant way to introduce young people to the world of work, when they can put their learning into real action in the workplace, realise the importance of the part they play as a team member and the importance of their association with other members of staff in a small business."

HIE senior development manager Ruth Sime, said: "The STEP programme is a very popular scheme that provides benefits for both students and employers. The relevant work experience gained by the students sets them apart from others when applying for jobs, particularly just now when graduate opportunities are limited. The employers are able to take on committed project staff at a subsidised rate during the holiday period. Some employers are able to offer a permanent job to their placement students when they have graduated and this helps to retain skilled young people in the region."

The winning student will receive a voucher for Amazon or iTunes for £150, with various runner-up prizes. Professor Mary Bownes of Edinburgh University, also a HIE Board Member, will present the prizes.

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