Guest post: Cybersecurity school to open at Bletchley Park, home of the wartime codebreakers

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Great news that a cybersecurity college is going to be set up at Bletchley Park to teach 16-19 year olds cybersecurity skills along with maths, physics, computer science and economics. What better place for the college to be located than at Bletchley Park, the UK’s hub of codebreaking during the second world war?

Good news too that the college is going to be set up by a consortium of experts: BT Security, Cyber Security challenge and The National Museum of Computing are well placed in terms of computing and cybersecurity knowledge, with partner City and Guilds providing the education and qualification expertise.

There is a desperate need for more technology education in the UK and overseas. Our standard curricula have not, in general, kept up with the rapid progress of technology. Like data science and big data, cybersecurity is an area that will grow dramatically over the next few years with a proportionate increase in job vacancies. We need to make sure that we have a workforce ready to take up these opportunities.

The college is to be based in G Block at Bletchley Park after a £5m ($6.2m) restoration and will house students who board. It’s great that the college will target teenagers as its students for a variety of reasons:

  • We need more exciting opportunities in the UK for young people who don’t want to go to university. University is great for some, but not for everyone. We need to have a plethora of interesting opportunities for them to choose from.
  • We need more young people in general studying and understanding technology and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects. It is a rapid growth area, and we live in fast-changing, exciting times.
  • Most of the people who worked at Bletchley Park from when it was set up in 1939 through to when the codebreaking work finished there were young people, many of them teenagers. More than half of them were women. It would be great if there were a target by the college of having 50% of women on their courses.

Hopefully this initiative will encourage the set up of other colleges focused on specific areas of technology and their application in the workplace. There are many courses in data science and cybersecurity online and in universities, mainly targeted at a higher, university-level education. We need to provide opportunities for everyone to have interesting and future relevant education and job prospects if we are to have a workforce that is fit for the challenges of the years ahead.

Some 10,000 people worked in complete secrecy at Bletchley Park during the second world war. It has been said that their work shortened the war by two years, potentially saving around 22m lives. What better place to train our future cybersecurity experts than at Bletchley Park: home of the codebreakers?

Dr Sue Black is the author of Saving Bletchley Park, the inspirational story of the campaign to save one of Britain’s most critical wartime heritage sites, and the history that made it a place worth saving