O2 and its parent company Telefonica are facing increasing competition from the UK's tech startups when looking for graduate employees as newly qualified talent becomes more willing to take a risk on a fledgling business.
The head of O2's Labs department, Shomila Malik, told V3 that her team, which develops proof-of-concept and beta products for Telefonica, operates much like a startup in order to keep up with smaller firms.
"Startups are a really viable option for graduates to go to, so we're working really hard to get them and invest in them ourselves," she explained, adding that graduates with good technology-based degrees now have more choice, and don't always opt to work with more established companies.
"It's really competitive to get these skills. Young people have a lot of options and I think they're willing to take more risks. We have to work a lot harder to get people with those digital skills."
In a bid to attract workers with creative and technical flare, O2 Labs has launched a competition to find its next intern. Prospective candidates have a brief to create something that "subverts the original purpose of a device by making it do something it's not supposed to do".
The Labs team has previously been involved in efforts to connect a Microsoft Kinect sensor to a giant iPhone among other things, and is looking for hardware and software projects that are equally or even more unusual.
The competitors will have to demonstrate their creations in front of a panel at Campus Party, an event designed to bring tech talent from across Europe together. "It's the first time we've done something like this," said Malik of the intern-finding process.
"We want to see people stay with us, so the culture fit is really important. We're not just a traditional company. We're trying to show that you can still come to a big company and innovate."
Campus Party 2013 will take place from 2-7 September at The O2 in London.
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