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In days of yore there were apprenticeships, that time when young people went through a mixture of work, education and mickey-taking by one’s elders and self-professed betters in order to learn something useful in the time to start proper employment. They are long gone of course, but increasingly are being replaced by student competitions where every entrant gets some experience, some win prizes and some get hunted down and employed by the prize-giving companies.

Microsoft has, of course, its Imagine Cup, but that is focused on the use of certain applications, for obvious reasons. What about students who are dabbling in the open source arena, what is there for them?

Well, an answer comes from Microsoft’s real and future arch-enemy, Google, with its Google Summer of Code. This has one interesting attraction over the Imagine Cup, which offers the chance of a trip to somewhere far away for just the winners. With Google, accepted entrants get to earn a stipend* for the work they undertake. Over the last three years the event has been held the number of students signed up has risen to around 1,000, working on some 100 different coding projects.

The students will be mentored by staff from open source organisations such as the Apache Software Foundation, openSUSE, Python Software Foundation and The Fedora Project. Some past students will also play a mentoring role and, like them, this year’s crop of students will have the chance to be talent spotted and employed – not least by Google itself.

Entries are being accepted from March 14 and ends on March 23. Interested students can start the entry process here

* Just a word to the wise…..in days of yore `stipend’ was a posh word for `miserable pittance’.

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