Capgemini has announced that it plans to double its workforce in the Scottish Highlands, creating 500 new jobs by 2016, in a drive to make Inverness on the company's prime global centres of excellence for advanced IT.

It has said that the news is 'strongly supported' by the Scottish government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), an economic and community development agency, and Scottish Development International, which promotes international development in the country.

Capgemini is looking for candidates with IT work experience, new graduates in all subjects that are keen to work in technology, and school leavers interested in joining the company's new Highlands Apprenticeship Programme.

It also plans to talk to undergraduates considering a career in IT and is establishing links with the University of the Highlands and Islands in Inverness.

"This is the single largest investment in jobs for the region by a multinational company in recent years. It will place Capgemini amongst our largest employers. The decision to create a global centre of excellence in the Highlands and Islands is testament to the highly skilled business services workforce we are already developing here," said Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

"This new growth in high quality jobs is very welcome and will strengthen the opportunities for both our current workforce and the next generation of young people looking for a long term career path."

He added: "We are pleased to be helping the company in its new venture both financially and with our local knowledge and links with schools and universities, and with organisations such as Scottish Development International and Skills Development Scotland. We wish Capgemini and its new employees every success with their growth in the Scottish Highlands."

HIE and Regional Selective Assistance, a funding initiative for job creation, are together providing Capgemini with £5.25 million of financial assistance, including training assistance, with its new venture in the Scottish Highlands.

Capgemini currently employs 8,000 people in the UK, including almost 1,000 in Scotland, with over 500 in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and over 470 at its existing Highlands centres in Inverness and Nairn.

"Today's announcement reflects our commitment to creating high quality, sustainable employment, and not least for college graduates," said Paul Soutter, Chief Executive Officer of Capgemini Infrastructure Services UK.

"We have long found Scotland to be a purposeful, dynamic and productive environment for business, so that by significantly expanding our activities here, we are building upon a strong record of proven success."

He added: "The new jobs we are creating in the Highlands will be at the heart of today's knowledge-based economy and will help prove Scotland's ability to compete and win in global markets."