18 Oct 2012

Scheme to lure ‘X-box generation’ into code-breaking careers

A scheme to lure high school graduates from the “X-Box generation” into careers as code-breakers in the intelligence services is launched by Foreign Secretary William Hague.

William Hague (Reuters)

Visiting Bletchley Park, the home of British code-breaking efforts during second world war, Mr Hague announced the apprenticeship scheme which will broaden efforts to improve the UK’s cyber expertise operations. It is hoped the apprenticeships will attract people who have not necessarily received a university education.

The scheme, SIA Apprentices, will pitch the security services as an alternative to university for school leavers.

Mr Hague said: “Young people are the key to our country’s future success, just as they were during the war.

“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.”

The scheme will recruit apprentices for the government’s intelligence communications organisation GCHQ, as well as other intelligence agencies. Applicants need to have three A-levels, or equivalent qualification, with a focus on science, technology and engineering.

Code-breakers at Bletchley Park (Getty)

If accepted for one of the 100 places, the apprentices will spend two years in a mixture of university education, work placements and training.


The British intelligence has a history of innovative ways of recruiting staff. Some of the code-breakers at Bletchley Park (pictured above, right) were recruited through a crossword competition.

Members of the public took part in the competition, run by the Daily Telegraph, in which they had to complete a cryptic crossword in less than 12 minutes. Competition winners were then contacted by the government and recruited to crack codes at Bletchley Park.

Last year GCHQ also launched a code breaking competition online, in which people were asked to find the key word from a screen full of code.

Finest achievements

The Engima Machine (Reuters)

Mr Hague also launched this year’s National Cypher Challenge at the speech to cyber experts and Bletchley veterans. The challenge is an online competition for schools, sponsored by GCHQ.

He also announced that the Foreign Office would be giving Bletchley Park £480,000, which will unlock £5m of Heritage Lottery Funding, to update facilities at the Milton Keynes site and help preserve the code-breaking huts.

The Enigma machine (pictured, left), which was used by British code-breakers to crack the Enigma code used by Germany during the second world war, has also been given to the foreign secretary and he said it would now be displayed in the ambassador’s waiting room next to his office.

“Bletchley Park was the scene of one of the finest achievements in our nation’s history,” Mr Hague said.

“Without the code-breaking geniuses of Bletchley Park our country would have been at a devastating disadvantage during the war.”