BAE systems has confirmed that 120 of its 2014 graduate intake of 287 will join the company's anti-hacker Applied Intelligence division, underlining the importance of cyber defence to major security firms.
The news means the Applied Intelligence division will receive nearly twice as many graduate recruits as any other BAE department. BAE's military aircraft business is the company's second-biggest recruiter and is earmarked to receive 69 graduates.
David Garfield, managing director of cyber security at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, said the recruitment is an essential step in the company's ongoing battle to protect its customers against the growing number of sophisticated cyber threats targeting them.
"The growth of the BAE Systems Applied Intelligence business reflects a rising global demand for expertise and technologies to help businesses defend themselves against cybercrime and effectively manage the threat," he said.
"To respond to this we need to recruit growing numbers of bright, motivated individuals, particularly IT, engineering and physics graduates. The new employees will work on the most exciting and advanced IT systems in the sector and advise clients on managing cyber risk. Their work will be complemented by an excellent training and development programme."
BAE Systems Applied Intelligence is headquartered in Guildford, Surrey, and runs offices in London and Leeds. The graduates will receive a basic salary of £25,000 per year and will get a £2,000 "welcome payment" when they start.
The news comes during a UK cyber skills shortage, with the government launching a Cyber Security Strategy in 2011 to tackle this issue.
Government spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO), estimated that the cyber skills gap will last 20 years and would cost the nation £27bn a year in its 2013 Cyber Strategy report.
BAE Systems said despite the gap it managed to ensure two thirds of its 2014 graduates have backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and maths.
The BAE managing director told V3 that despite a continuing shortage of skilled individuals, the company has seen an increase in the number of young people interested in a career in cyber security.
“It is always a challenge to find the very best candidates, but recruitment challenges haven’t to date affected our plans to grow our cyber business or to attract the best talent,” Garfield said. “We’re finding that there is a very high level of interest in our available roles, as more graduates find the idea of working on cyber security appealing.”
Garfield told V3 that the company is getting round the skills gap by considering individuals without technical backgrounds for cyber security roles. “We are not necessarily looking for specific cyber skills, but rather for graduates with strong analytical skills, an enquiring mind and the aptitude to clearly articulate and engage with clients on a range of complex business challenges,” he said.
“Regardless of what is taught at school or university, we will train people on the job from scratch. There is no substitute for learning from experience and having to deal with real-life business problems and issues, and it isn’t always realistic to expect academic institutions to be able to provide this.”
Increasing the number of women entering the IT industry has also been a central goal of the UK government's Cyber Security Strategy, which BAE systems has supported. Garfield declined V3’s request for an exact number, but confirmed: “We are an equal opportunities employer and encourage applications from the widest possible range of backgrounds.”
Education has been another central tenet of the UK Cyber Security Strategy and the government has launched numerous initiatives to teach businesses security best practice. The UK Home Office launched its Cyber Streetwise initiative in January.
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