Sixteen ambitious students, bringing fresh ideas for business development to companies across the Highlands and Islands, are gathering in Inverness today (Wednesday) to present their project findings to a panel of business experts in a dragons' den style competition.
The students, who have come from across the UK to work for eight weeks over the summer with local businesses and social enterprises, are part of the TalentScotland Summer Placement Programme managed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Today's event at Cowan House in Inverness celebrates this year's programme which has seen 21 university students gain industry experience with a wide range of organisations across the Highlands and Islands from Shetland to Moray and Argyll.
Ruth Sime, Acting Head of Business Support Programmes at HIE said: "This programme provides benefits for both students and employers. The invaluable work experience gained by the students sets them apart from others when applying for jobs, particularly 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 may offer a longer term employment opportunity to their placement student in the future and this helps to retain skilled young people in the region."
The students will showcase their projects and deliver short presentations on how their placements have benefited the business they have been working with.
Their projects provide new thinking for the host businesses across a range of disciplines including scientific research, marketing projects and design.
The students attending today's event work in businesses and social enterprises in Shetland, Stornoway, Inverness, Tain, Oban, Torridon, Wick, Thurso, Lossiemouth, Islay and Dingwall. (Details of businesses and students at end of release)
Among those taking part is Amy McKinnon who took up a placement with Community Energy Scotland (CES), a social enterprise in Dingwall.
Amy studies Politics with Russian at the University of Glasgow and assisted with a project to create a community project online database, investigate sponsorship opportunities and issue press releases. She also set up a members e-bulletin and membership network and improved the members area on the CES website.
With an interest in community development and renewable energy the experience has been invaluable to her future aspirations.
Nicholas Gubbins, Chief Executive at CES, said: "Community Energy Scotland welcomed the opportunity to offer a summer placement to a student through TalentScotland. From our perspective, the placement has been a resounding success. Amy brought enthusiasm and drive to an important area of our work, development of member services and promotion of the benefits to communities of getting involved in renewable energy. Her creative flair has ensured that Community Energy Scotland can make some real progress in these areas. For our part, we feel sure that Amy's time with Community Energy Scotland has allowed her to develop new skills which will stand her in great stead for her future career. A successful collaboration!"
HIE provided a 50 per cent wage subsidy for the Highlands and Islands based placements through strategic assistance by the European Regional Development Fund.
As well as gaining experience through the paid placements, the students received two days of tailored training from Robert Gordon University's Aberdeen Business School and the Hunter Centre of Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde University, which was funded by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and Skills Development Scotland (SDS).
Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HIE, will present the prizes.