Two university students have joined Coventry computer software company, Senokian Solutions, under a scheme aimed at recruiting bright and intelligent undergraduates to the small business sector.

Paul Bain, aged 21, and 20-year-old Ben Francis are working for the UK's leading supplier of integrated open source business systems during the summer months under the Shell Step programme.

It places undergraduates into small and medium sized companies where they carry out specific technical or business projects. Paul and Ben are working on the development of a new software programme.

Coventry-born Paul was educated at King Henry VIII School before moving to Manchester University where he is studying computation. Ben, from Bourne in Lincolnshire, is studying at Birmingham University.

"We find that the Step programme gives students an opportunity to work on real projects and at the same time allows them to experience work in smaller companies," said Jake Stride, managing director of Senokian Solutions, based at the Business Innovation Centre at Binley Business Park.

"Last summer Lucy Bostock joined us on the Step programme and as a result of her project work and subsequent part-time experience we recently appointed her as our marketing manager.

"We believe the Step scheme offers real benefits to both students and employers."

Ms Bostock, aged 23, was educated at Southam High School and Stratford-upon-Avon College before studying at Northampton University where she gained a first-class BA Honours degree in marketing.

She reached the regional finals of the Step award scheme.

Senokian Solutions has been expending its workforce over the past few months as it introduces new software products for small and medium-sized businesses. Meanwhile Senokian has won a contract to develop leading edge computer software for a major manufacturer that supplies millions of household wipes to supermarkets in the UK.

It has recently started work with Somerset-based Severn Delta.

Martyn Shiner, Severn Delta's finance director, said his company had inherited an antiquated computer system.

So, he began a nationwide search to find a specialist computer company that could develop a customer relation-ship management system to meet Severn Delta's needs.

"We selected Senokian because we knew they had a reputation for developing and supplying open source business systems that could be used in our business," said Mr Shiner.

The company is now using Senokian's EGS (Enterprise Groupware Systems) package.

EGS has modules that collect vital customer data, track order histories, view pipelines and build individual customer profiles.

The modules integrate enterprise resource planning and enable on-line purchasing, as well as document management, group calendaring, and warehouse management.

A key advantage of EGS is that is completely web-based, allowing managers to monitor, query or update the system while out of the office.

"We are using Senokian to tailor EGS to our specific needs and to integrate it into our systems. We are also asking Senokian to develop an enterprise resource planning system that also meets our specific business requirements," said Mr Shiner.

Senokian Solutions' managing director, Jake Stride, said: "Working with Severn Delta gives us the opportunity to develop software that not only meets their needs but will be a stepping stone to developing other new open source business systems."