A fresh apprenticeship scheme training a new generation of security experts to defend the country's most important assets against cyber attacks has been subject to unprecedented demand.
More than 1,000 youngsters applied for just 23 cyber security apprentice roles – more than 50 for each place – in businesses which are in charge of some of the UK's most critical infrastructure.
Network Rail, South East Water and Northern Powergrid are among the 13 firms which will host the future cyber security experts. The pilot scheme is part of the government's plans to plough £1.9bn into protecting Britain from cyber attacks and online threats.
“As part of National Apprenticeship Week, our cyber security apprenticeships in Critical National Infrastructure scheme will take those with the right aptitude and thirst for new technology and place them in essential industries with tough on-the-job training," said digital minister Matt Hancock.
“This is an important part of our National Cyber Security Programme and recent Digital Strategy to prepare Britain for the challenges it faces now and in the future."
The apprentices will learn about things such as ethical hacking, network defence, malware analysis, cryptography, encryption and cyber security operations through on the job education, classroom learning and lab training.
Recent figures from jobs site Indeed suggest the UK has the second largest shortage of cyber security skills in the world. By 2021, the programme is expected to deliver up to 1,000 cyber apprenticeships.
Eugene Kaspersky, one of the world's most well known cyber security experts, last week said "tell your kids to get into cyber security" to an audience at Mobile World Congress, highlighting how critical cyber security will be in a future where almost everything's online. Analysts believe there will be 50bn connected devices by 2020.
It comes at a time of heightened tensions over hacking and digital security with concerns over Russia's involvement in the US election. Meanwhile, a huge dump of leaked information on the CIA's cyber-warfare programme was published this week by Wikileaks.