A GCHQ programme designed to encourage young people to develop their cyber security skills has trebled its intake since it launched in 2016.

The CyberFirst programme is run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and offers a range of courses, competitions and student bursaries for 11-to-17-year-olds.

The scheme aims to train the next generation of cyber security workers as well as reduce the gender imbalance that currently exists in the industry.

Government taking the threat more seriously

With cyber attacks from foreign states and online groups on the rise, the UK government has been taking the threat more seriously in recent years.

It announced the creation of a new offensive cyber force composed of up to 2,000 personnel in September and the Ministry of Defence has even set up a ‘cyber cadet force’.

GCHQ is currently preparing for its third CyberFirst Girls competition, which is aimed at girls aged 12 and 13 and sees them take part in a series of online challenges.

More young women being encouraged

The aim of the competition is to encourage more young women to consider cyber security as a career. Currently, only 11 per cent of the global cyber workforce is female, the organisation said.

Chris Ensor, the NCSC deputy director for skills and growth said: “Trebling the number of young people taking part on CyberFirst courses is an encouraging start. However, women only make a small proportion of the global cyber workforce and throughout GCHQ and the NCSC we are looking to address the imbalance.

“Ensuring the inquisitive instincts of young people to find out how things work are maintained is hugely important.

“In the first two editions of the CyberFirst Girls competition we have seen how much entrants engage with the challenges we set and this year’s competition is due to be bigger and just as cryptic.”

Source: The Institution of Engineering and Technology