A scheme to recruit technical apprentices to work in MI5*, MI6** and UK communications spook central GCHQ*** is now open and accepting applications.
Successful Q-Branch apprentices will do paid work tackling cyber threats and organised crime, deep in the intelligence service headquarters in Cheltenham and London. The young hopefuls need three A-levels, two at C or above in a science, maths or engineering subject to be considered.
The government introduced two-year technical apprenticeships as an alternative to university degrees, and the Secret Services are now advertising for next year's batch of applicants. William Hague promoted the scheme yesterday at Bletchley Park:
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.
The apprentices will get a chance to get their teeth into a serious amount of work. The scheme offers the apprentices a chance to grapple with cyber threats, terrorism, counter espionage and organised crime.
The first year of the apprenticeship will be in Cheltenham at GCHQ headquarters, the second in either London (at MI5 or MI6 headquarters) or Cheltenham. The work is paid and will include university-delivered courses, specific technical training, work-based placements and qualifications at the end.
The degrees available on the successful completion of the course include a foundation degree in Communications Systems, Security and Computing and a Level 4 Diploma in IT Professional Competence.
Applications for 2013 are open now.
But it's not going to be the average uni experience, MI5 cautions:
Owing to the sensitivity of our work, we do not publicly disclose the identities of our staff. Discretion is vital. You should not discuss your application, other than with your partner or a close family member.
*Proper title the Security Service, headquartered at Thames House on Millbank. MI5/SS works mainly within the UK, battling major crime, terrorism and such threats.
**Properly known as the Secret Intelligence Service, headquartered in the well-known building at Vauxhall Cross. SIS is all about gathering secret intelligence, usually from human sources and via liaison with foreign spooks, from abroad. Most of its personnel are UK based but a proportion are stationed overseas.
***Government Communications Headquarters, the British communications, cryptography and signals spying agency - roughly equivalent to America's NSA. Headquartered in the famous "doughnut" at Cheltenham. Both MI5/SS and MI6/SIS have technical personnel of their own, but GCHQ is the secret agency primarily focused on finding things out using technological means as opposed to human channels.