With their almost perfect grade point average of 4, polytechnic graduates Tham Shi Yi and Pang Shun Toll could have easily landed a place in a local university with a scholarship to boot.

Instead, they are heading to Germany for three to four years, where they will alternate between semesters of work and study.

Both graduates, who will go through an intensive German language course, hope the renowned German training will turn them into highly skilled engineers with an innovative mind.

They are among the first eight recipients of a scholarship available to polytechnic graduates from this year.

Some 101 students from Singapore Polytechnic (SP) and Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) applied for the first round of eight scholarships offered by four "Mittelstands" - the German equivalent of small and medium-sized enterprises that are global leaders in specific niches. All are German technology firms with operations here: Festo, Pepperl+Fuchs, Rohde & Schwarz and Sick.

After studying German, they will spend three to four years in Germany where they will study at a university of applied sciences and work at the sponsoring company. Upon graduation, they are likely to be offered a position by the firm they are with.

The Economic Development Board (EDB), which is behind the initiative, said more German firms are expected to come on board over the next few years, so more scholarships will be available.

EDB deputy managing director Quek Swee Kuan said: "A well-planned practical work curriculum alongside university studies can complement hands-on learning and allow students to experience engineering companies' operations first-hand. Furthermore, the candidates will be considered preferably for employment with the sponsor companies upon their graduation."

Mr Christian Burdin is managing director of Festo, South East Asia. He said his company, which makes complex machine tools, has offered a similar programme in Germany for many years. One advantage of the scheme is students get to work in different departments in the company.

He said: "Engineers who come out of the programme have had hands-on practical experience, so they tend to have good skills. They also have a good understanding of the company culture and know what the job entails. So they are job ready from day one."

Mr Jack Goh, managing director of Sick Product Centre Asia, a leading maker of sensors, said his company hopes to nurture employees with the mindset of a German engineer. "They have good skills but keep building on them," he said. "They also keep innovating and they always put quality first."

Ms Tham, 23, who studied precision engineering at NYP, found that her three-month attachment in Germany gave her a deep appreciation of German engineers. "They are very skilled and always coming up with clever solutions," said Ms Tham, who hopes to go on to work with Sick, her sponsor.

Mr Pang, 21, an SP graduate in aeronautical engineering, will alternate between three months' study and three months' work at Pepperl+Fuchs, a leader in electronic sensors.

"I get to try my hand at different roles and the company gets to find out what I am good at," he said. "It is a great way to find the right job fit."