Hague Announces Spook Apprenticeships At Bletchley Park

The government is seeking the next generation of cyber security spooks to protect against the growing online dangers arrayed against the United Kingdom.

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, revealed an apprenticeship scheme for young spooks and code breakers during a visit to Bletchley Park on Thursday afternoon. He also revealed a £480,000 donation to help secure the future of what was famously dubbed “Station X” during the Second World War.

This funding will allow the famous codebreaking centre in Buckinghamshire to unlock an additional £5 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Brain Drain

The Foreign Secretary was accompanied on his visit by the director of Britain’s top secret listening station GCHQ, Iain Lobban, who has previously warned of the growing threat to the United Kingdom posed by cyber attacks.

In July 2011 Lobban made a very unusual public complaint when he warned that GCHQ was losing cyber security ‘whizz kids’ to the likes of Google, because it could not match corporate salaries.

But today was all about attracting new talent to the fold, as Lobban and the Foreign Secretary met both young people who took part in a code breaking challenge, as well as Bletchley Park veterans.

Lobban used a speech to emphasise that in the face of growing cyber threats, the UK must “harness experts from the ‘X-Box’ generation who have grown up with a world of social media, global connectivity and interactive gaming.”

Lobban said this was vital if UK is to maintain a leading role on cyber issues, and to enhance the UK’s economic growth.

Apprentice Scheme

To this end, the SIA Apprentice scheme will be rolled out in full after a successful trial and is seeking 100 new recruits for GCHQ and the intelligence agencies, to begin work this Autumn. It is open to 18 year olds with three good A levels, or an equivalent vocational qualification in science, technology or engineering.

Successful applicants will spend two years learning about communications, security and engineering through university education, technical training and work placements. Upon graduating, they will become fully fledge spooks working for either GCHQ or other intelligence agencies.

“I am delighted to visit GCHQ’s spiritual home, Bletchley Park, in the centenary year of Alan Turing’s birth,” said Iain Lobban, Director of GCHQ. “The challenges faced by our forerunners at the Government Code & Cypher School at Bletchley Park, and the successes of Alan Turing and many others who silently served, continue to be an inspiration to today’s GCHQ.

“The announcements made by the Foreign Secretary today, in particular those concerning apprenticeships and mathematics recruitment, should ensure that GCHQ continues to develop the skills and attract the talent it needs to meet today’s challenges around cyber security, and live up to the example set by our Bletchley Park forebears,” said Lobban.

Talent Search

“Bletchley Park was the scene of one of the finest achievements in our nation’s history. Without the code-breaking geniuses of Bletchley Park our country would have been at a devastating disadvantage during the war,” said William Hague.

“Without the men and women of GCHQ and our other intelligence agencies we could not protect Britain today. It is part of the living legacy of Bletchley Park that Britain today is an international leader in cyber security. We are determined to preserve this legacy and build on it for the future,” said Hague.

“In the year in which we celebrate the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing, one of the finest mathematical minds our country has ever known and a leading light at Bletchley, we want to step up our efforts to find the most talented people to help sustain and secure the UK’s code-breaking and cyber expertise for the future,” he said.

“Young people are the key to our country’s future success, just as they were during the War,” said Hague. “It will be the young innovators of this generation who will help keep our country safe in years to come against threats which are every bit as serious as some of those confronted in the Second World War.”

During the visit the Foreign Secretary was given a demonstration of the Bombe machine by Mrs Jean Valentine, a Bletchley veteran. He also was presented with a refurbished Enigma machine for the Foreign Office.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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