The UK National Crime Agency (NCA) has pledged to train 400 new cyber intelligence officers over the next year.
The agency said the recruits will receive a starting salary of £22,407, which will be increased to £24,717 once they finish two years of training. The newly trained officers will be based in the NCA's offices in Warrington and London.
The NCA's announcement comes as the UK grapples with a serious "cyber skills gap". Many UK security vendors and companies are reported to be struggling to recruit skilled cyber professionals. BT cyber security director Bob Nowill said the gap is largely due to teachers' and businesses' failure to make information security interesting to young people.
The NCA said it will recruit cyber intelligence officers based on their potential aptitude, rather than their formal educational qualifications in order to get around the skills shortage. The agency will accept applications from any 18-year-old regardless of education.
The application process will initially vet candidates using a security-focused online questionnaire. Candidates that pass the questionnaire will be required to complete numerical, verbal and logic reasoning tests online. Roughly 1,000 of the top scoring candidates will be invited to an assessment centre for the final tests at the start of December.
The NCA's deputy director general, Phil Gormley, said the strategy is an essential step in the agency's ongoing fight against cyber crime. "I want roles at the NCA to be the career of choice for people wanting a future in law enforcement. The agency will be vastly different to those that came before it and we need to build our crime-fighting capacity and capability," he said.
"This trainee programme shows that we are opening the NCA up to new people and new ideas, diversifying our workforce and modernising the workplace - while at the same time transferring expertise gained through years of experience."
The NCA recruitment drive is the latest in a long line of government initiatives designed to find cyber experts outside of the standard education channels. Earlier this year, the GCHQ launched its "Can You Find It" challenge, while in 2012 Bletchley Park announced apprenticeships to help find the next generation of cyber professionals.
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