PwC, the professional services firm, will open its doors across the country this week to 351 paid interns, the largest group ever to join the firm’s summer business programme for students.

Responding to record levels of interest, and an increased emphasis by the firm on identifying talented students earlier for full time trainee roles, the programme was expanded by 50% this year, and now represents over a quarter of its total student and graduate hire activity. 420 interns will join in total across this year in total.

Almost 8000 students applied in eight months, an 88% increase on last year. Some 23 students were vying for each role, with interns joining from over 45 universities from Swansea to Stirling, Aberdeen to Exeter.

The group will take part in a range of work experience programmes in 23 offices in the UK, including a week shadowing senior leaders in the business, a three day residential business school, international internships in Germany, Italy and the US, and a six week programme in the UK.

Ian Powell, chairman and senior partner, PwC said:

“Internships are a crucial gateway to widening access to employment experience and opportunities.

“The success of our programme this year is in the diversity of applicants we’ve attracted, and experiences they are being offered. If graduates are to have real prospects they need real experience of work, and opportunities like this get them under the skin of business.”