The UK intelligence agencies are to recruit apprentice cyber spies in an attempt to harness the talents of the “Xbox generation”.
Up to 100 18-year-olds will be given the chance to train for a career in the secret services countering the threat of cyber warfare and internet criminals. The recruitment drive was aimed at “the young innovators of this generation who will help keep our country safe in years to come”, Mr Hague said.
Speaking at Bletchley Park, the home of Britain’s Second World War codebreakers, the foreign secretary said:
“Today we are not at war, but I see evidence every day of deliberate, organised attacks against intellectual property and government networks in the United Kingdom from cyber criminals or foreign actors with the potential to undermine our security and economic competitiveness. This is one of the great challenges of our time, and we must confront it to ensure that Britain remains a world leader in cyber security and a pre-eminent safe space for e-commerce and intellectual property online.”
Successful applicants to the Single Intelligence Account apprenticeship will pursue a foundation degree course in communications, security and engineering over two years at De Montfort University in Leicester.
They will also study for a level 4 diploma in IT, software, web and telecommunications professional competence, and will be expected to work predominantly at GCHQ, the electronic communications agency – although some will go on to work for MI5, the security service, or MI6 intelligence agency.
The move marks a break with past practice when the agencies traditionally recruited mainly university graduates.