What does it do?

Thales UK is a defence, aerospace and electronics company, providing hi-tech bits of kit and clever wizardry for numerous customers in the civilian and military sectors. If the name doesn't sound familiar, that's because it emerged only in 2000, after the latest in a succession of mergers and acquisitions involving companies with long track records in the field. These include Racal, Pilkington, Shorts and Ferranti, names that for decades have been associated with the sophisticated elements inside planes, ships and helicopters. Another branch of the business produces the software and systems that control cars, lorries and buses, and monitor the virtual flow of money between banks and customers. The seeds for this massive, multi-headed concern were sown in 1888, when a small firm called Barr and Stroud was formed in Glasgow to supply rangefinders to the British Army.

Vital statistics

Worldwide, Thales employs some 60,000 people, and generates revenue of around £7bn. The UK workforce numbers 9,000, of whom 70 per cent are in engineering.

The office

There are 60 sites in Britain, including Glasgow, Belfast, Manchester and Wells, in Somerset. The head office is in Weybridge in Surrey.

Is this you?

Most of the 80 or so graduate jobs available this year are in engineering disciplines, but with a company of this size, generic business skills, such as finance, sales and marketing, are also required. A 2:2 is the bare minimum, and because much of the work is of the "hush-hush" variety, you'll need to have permanent UK residence eligibility to apply.

The recruitment process

All vacancies are listed in the UK Careers section of the company website ( www.thalesgroup.com/uk). If you're confused about the exact differences between the various categories of engineer, there's a phone number to ring to find out more. Selection follows a familiar path. If your CV passes muster, you'll have a telephone interview, followed by online "ability tests" and finally an assessment centre visit. Training lasts for four years and is a mix of on-the-job and theoretical instruction, taking place across different Thales sites to give you a view of the range of work that is undertaken. You'll also mix with graduates who have been taken on in other branches of the business.

Top dollar?

Exact pay levels aren't published, but the frills include twice-yearly pay reviews for the first two years, five weeks' annual leave and a company pension scheme.

Beam me up Scotty?

Within five years or so, the typical Thales graduate will be close to gaining chartered professional status and to being in a senior role within the business group.

Who's the boss?

Alex Dorrian, a mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Strathclyde, is the company's chief executive. He joined from British Aerospace in 1999.

Little-known fact

Thales provides the security software that is behind the BACS financial system that channels more than three-and-a-half billion bank transactions a year, for more than 100,000 businesses.

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