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Can you crack it – GCHQ’s Challenge

So by now you’ve probably heard of GCHQ’s Can You Crack It challenge. I’m not going to give the game away by explaining what to do, but GCHQ do deserve credit for trying to reach a new audience. They certainly know their targets – I couldn’t walk away from this until I’d worked it out, and it was challenging and fun. Good play there guys.

Historically GCHQ have recruited directly from Oxbridge, with a requirement of at least a 2:1 degree in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). In recent years, however, fewer students are taking these subjects – driven, in part, but the lack of jobs for graduates.

The problem for GCHQ is that the salaries on offer are meagre, to say the least. Littering their site with ‘cyber’ this and ‘cyber’ that is bad enough – but £31k per annum for a Senior Cyber Security Specialist position? With awareness of security issues rising across the IT industry, companies are paying top whack in order to attract the best talent.

GCHQ are competing against this, and despite a the recent UK Cyber Security Strategy allocating £650m to protect key UK assets, GCHQ still aren’t offering competitive salaries. Targeting graduates is one thing, but enticing top talent from the private sector is a different matter.

GCHQ should be applauded for this challenge. Not only has this raised the profile of the work they do, it’s also raised awareness of the sort of security challenges we can face. Critically, GCHQ have also acknowledged that their traditional recruiting methods are struggling to find suitable candidates these days, and they’re started trying to tap into a wider pool of talent.

There’s an interesting lesson there for any company that’s claiming it can’t find the right IT people in the current market conditions.

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