UK to invest in a future generation of code-breakers

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Foreign Secretary William Hague has launched a new drive to find and nurture the next generation of code-breakers and computer scientists.

Visiting the spiritual home of code-breaking, Bletchley Park, the Foreign Secretary announced a £480,000 donation to help secure the Park’s future and set out details of a new Apprenticeship scheme to recruit Britain’s most talented young people into GCHQ and the intelligence agencies.

Meeting Bletchley veterans and young people with Director of GCHQ, Iain Lobban, the Foreign Secretary celebrated the mathematical expertise which played a leading role in ensuring Allied victory in World War Two. He also emphasised that in the face of growing cyber threats, if the UK is to maintain a leading role on cyber issues to enhance the UK’s economic growth, we must harness experts from the “X-Box” generation who have grown up with a world of social media, global connectivity and interactive gaming.


During a speech to Bletchley veterans, GCHQ staff, cyber experts and trustees, the Foreign Secretary announced:

  • £480,000 of Foreign Office funding for Bletchley Park which unlocks £5million of Heritage Lottery Funding
  • the roll-out of SIA Apprentices - a scheme to find up to 100 new recruits for GCHQ and the intelligence agencies. This is part of a more open and flexible online recruitment process for GCHQ
  • the launch of this year’s National Cipher Challenge, an annual competition for schools to inspire young people into thinking about a future career in mathematics and cyber security.

Speaking to Bletchley veterans and staff, William Hague said:

“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.

“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. 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.

“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.”

Home of the world’s first semi-programmable computer, Colossus, and the secret code-breaking effort during World War Two, Bletchley Park is of enormous historical significance to the UK. The £480,000 Foreign Office donation, and the £5million of Heritage Lottery funding, will help ensure Bletchley Park can continue to inspire future generations by undertaking urgent restoration work to update its facilities. The money will also help Bletchley preserve the world war two huts in which code-breakers worked to crack the Enigma codes.

Iain Standen, CEO of the Bletchley Park Trust, said:

“The Bletchley Park Trust is enormously grateful to the FCO for the contribution of £480,000 to complete the £2.4 million match funding necessary to unlock a further £5 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant. This will allow the Trust to commence the vital restoration of historic code-breaking huts, and the creation of a world-class visitor centre and educational exhibitions.”

Following a successful pilot scheme, the first young Apprentices will walk through the doors of GCHQ this autumn. The SIA Apprenticeship scheme will now be rolled out in full. 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. On graduating they will enter roles within GCHQ or the other intelligence agencies.

This is part of GCHQ’s broader efforts to find the most talented people to help sustain and secure the UK’s cyber expertise. GCHQ is looking not only for individuals with maths degrees, but for anyone with relevant experience or vocational skills to broaden the talent within the agency.

The nature of the cyber threat has changed significantly since the days of Bletchley’s code-breakers. It is now possible to buy off-the-shelf malicious software, designed to steal bank details, for as little as £3,000. This summer, one group targeted over 200 email accounts at 30 government departments in a single attack. Without protective security attackers might have gained unfettered access to sensitive government information. GCHQ’s future, and continued investment in the next generation of cryptanalysts and code-breakers, is vital to the UK’s continued security and prosperity.

Iain Lobban, Director of GCHQ, said:

“I am delighted to visit GCHQ’s spiritual home, Bletchley Park, in the centenary year of Alan Turing’s birth.

“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.”

During the visit to Bletchley Park, the Foreign Secretary was given a demonstration of the Bombe machine by Mrs Jean Valentine, a Bletchley veteran. He also met young people from Holne Chase primary school, who took part in a code-breaking challenge, and was presented with a refurbished Enigma machine for the Foreign Office. Today’s announcements are part of the education commitments set out in the government’s Cyber Security Strategy following the London Conference on Cyberspace.