NCSC CyberFirstThe National Cyber Security Centre has issued an last minute appeal for students to apply for a bursary and new degree apprenticeship. It is warning them that next week sees the first of two deadlines for applications. Students who want to apply for a new degree apprenticeship must apply by Monday 20th November. Those who want to take advantage of the £4,000 CyberFirst student bursary have until Monday 27th November.

According to Chris Ensor, Deputy Director for NCSC Skills and Growth: “We’re looking for motivated, technically orientated individuals from all backgrounds who want to work in national security and make a positive impact on the world. Cyber security is an integral part to the UK making the most of the digital age, and we hope CyberFirst will help young people develop skills that lead to dynamic and rewarding careers.

“For the apprenticeship scheme, a keen interest in programming, computing and technology is essential. Although previous experience in coding would be advantageous, it’s not required as you’ll have the opportunity to develop these skills on the apprenticeship.”

Chris Ensor, Deputy Director for NCSC Skills and Growth
Chris Ensor, Deputy Director for NCSC Skills and Growth

What is this all about?

Back in August 2016 the NCSC announced CyberFirst. It consists of the £4,000 per year bursary and a CyberFirst Degree Apprenticeship. The goal is to allow students to get practical experience of working in cyber security as they learn. The goal is to get them ready to join the UK Intelligence Community.

It is a smart move by the NCSC. It allows them to address part of their skills gap and provides them a workforce that brings cultural, gender and age diversity. These are three things that the current intelligence services lack.

There are 250 bursaries available to students who are reading STEM degrees. In addition they are offered an 8-10 week summer paid work placement. The carrot for students is a guaranteed job at the end of their degree. Given the lack of graduate jobs at the moment, this is a significant bonus.

The CyberFirst Degree Level Apprenticeship is worth £18,000 per year to those who are selected. To apply, students need to have: “A Level grades in any subject at grade C or above (or equivalent) and have a minimum of 2 IGCSE/GCSE STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths) subjects at grade B or above including IGCSE/GCSE in maths.” The apprenticeship will see them work at GCHQ where they will gain significant experience in cyber security. The apprenticeship is classified as a level 6 which is the equivalent of a full bachelor’s degree. Those who complete the apprenticeship can be sure of work in the industry or move on to a master’s degree.

What does this mean?

There are many organisations which offer cybersecurity apprenticeships. However, the difference in quality is substantial. Most offer a mix of learning and experience with some form of professional qualification at the end.

The CyberFirst offering is one of the better offers. The ability to gain the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree is a big boost for those who are successful. Jobs in the cybersecurity industry now pay over £100,000 for those with genuine experience. This means that those who finish the apprenticeship will be sought after by the private sector.

Putting out an urgent call to remind people of the deadline is a surprise. You might think both the bursary and the apprenticeship would already be oversubscribed. They are not, even though they should be.

It will be interesting to see how diverse a workforce GCHQ and the NCSC end up with. For that we will have to wait a few cybersecurity generations.


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