Shell's Technology Enterprise Programme: One big Step for studentkind

Shell's Technology Enterprise Programme offers the best-paid holiday jobs ever. By James Morrison

For many undergraduates, holiday jobs are spent surgically attached to headsets in sweaty call-centres, or stifling yawns through night shifts at service stations. The idea of being paid £185 a week, tax free, to enhance your career prospects by putting your degree subject to practical use in the workplace simply doesn't compute.

Yet this is how thousands of students are whiling away the summer vacations before their final year - thanks to the Shell Technology Enterprise Programme, a scheme set up by the oil giant to improve graduate employment prospects.

Shell Step, as it is known, recruits 1,000 interns each June for eight-week placements with small- and medium-sized UK businesses (SMEs). By matching undergraduates to companies suited to their skills and interests, it aims to promote industrial innovation while providing the students with valuable work experience.

Now in its 20th year, Shell Step has brought real benefits to hundreds of such SMEs. In 2004, 24-year-old Martina Rieder, a biochemistry and management studies undergraduate from the University of Sussex, devised surgical aids including a silicon skin adhesive for a private medical firm. Her creations - together worth nearly £400,000 a year to the company - earned her a £1,000 cheque and Shell's annual award for the UK's Most Enterprising Student.

In 2002, Danielle Holden, 20, an environment and economics student at York University, won the same accolade after inventing a simple tilting system to help workers at a small textiles firm in Accrington ensure their drums of bleach were drained properly. Her innovation saves the company £64,000 a year.

So it's hardly surprising that 94 per cent of businesses that have participated in Shell Step would happily do so again. The scheme is hugely popular among undergraduates, too: for each successful applicant, seven are turned away because recruiters cannot find ideal placements.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out why students find the programme so appealing. During internships, they are paid £185 a week, free of income tax and national insurance, thanks to a neat loophole that allows companies to classify these short-term earnings as a training allowance.

So who is eligible, and how can they apply? The answer to the first question is that Shell Step is open to all undergraduates approaching their final year. By its nature, it tends to appeal more to science and technology than humanities or arts students.

Most undergraduates find out about the initiative through trade fairs and marketing campaigns targeted at their faculties. Last year's most enterprising student, the maths undergraduate David Hewett, 23, first heard about Shell Step when he stumbled upon its orange logo at a careers event at the University of Warwick.

"Some people I know were looking to go into the City or to find accountancy internships over their final summer, but I saw the Step programme and thought, 'Oh, that's a bit different,'" Hewett says. "I was attracted by the prospect of doing something that would help me apply the subject I was studying at university, which is very pure and abstract, and liked the idea of working with a small company rather than a big one, where I'd be a small fish."

Like every applicant, Hewett was asked by recruiters to identify his strengths. He was then matched up with the right business. Within weeks, he found himself working for Tailor Made Systems Ltd, which makes mobile machines to test the quality of airport runway lighting.

By building a computer model that simulated the movement of the trailer-borne device, David was able to calculate how accurate its readings would be if it were manufactured at a more compact size. His work has enabled TMS to begin mass-producing a smaller version of the machine, which it has used to increase its market share by selling it more cheaply.

So why is a multinational like Shell making such efforts to promote innovation among the minnows of the business world? Louise Johnson, the company's head of social investment, says its motive is one of enlightened self-interest.

"Yes, Shell Step benefits small businesses, but our motivation in setting it up was primarily geared towards undergraduates," she says. "A better prepared stream of young people in the UK is going to benefit the economy, and that will benefit us."

Further information from

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Wes Brown is sent-off
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

WORLDbytes: Two-Day Intensive Camera training and Shoot: Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th March

expenses on shoots: WORLDbytes: Volunteering with a media based charity,for a ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 4 Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A school in Tameside is currently l...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are currently looking for ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower