Google has announced its first programming competition for Europe, Code Jam Europe 2006. This follows similar such events successful events across the US, China and India for the last three years.

The company said that it was looking for new staff to work in its European engineering centres in Zurich, Dublin, London and Trondheim.

Although the winners will share prize money worth about £21,000 (30,000 euros), the main incentive for the entrants is a chance to work for the company. However, a Google spokesman said the recruitment process would be much more stringent than a programming contest. Not all the 50 finalists therefore, would find work with the company, he said.

Registration for the contest is open for three weeks, where participants can choose between three programming languages - Java, C++ and C# - the same as they were for previous Code Jam competitions in other countries. While there is no limit to the number of coders who can take part, 500 contestants will be chosen in the first round by the month-end.

Round two will have 250 qualifiers in the first week of June. The championship round will have 50 participants, all of who will be flown for an all-expenses-paid weekend to Dublin, Ireland, where they will finally compete head-to-head. More details can be found here.

"Code Jam is one of the many ways we try and support engineering, programming and computer science communities around the world," said Shannon Maher, UK Engineering site director. However, the prize money from the Code Jam competitions is not something Google has been able to increase. Last year, the company awarded $10,000 (around £5,500) to the grand prize winner in the US. This year, the European finalist will take away only 2,500 euros – that’s less than £1,800.