Schoolchildren in England will be offered lessons in cyber security in a bid to find the experts of the future to defend the UK from attacks.
It is hoped 5,700 pupils aged 14 and over will spend up to four hours a week on the subject in a five-year pilot.
Classroom and online teaching, “real-world challenges” and work experience will be made available from September.
A Commons committee last week warned that a skills shortage was undermining confidence in the UK’s cyber defences.
The risk that criminals or foreign powers might hack into critical UK computer systems is now ranked as one of the top four threats to national security.
Cyber security is a fast-growing industry, employing 58,000 experts, the government says, but the Public Accounts Committee has warned it is proving difficult to recruit people with the right skills.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is providing £20m for the lessons, which will be designed to fit around pupils’ current courses and exams.
“This forward-thinking programme will see thousands of the best and brightest young minds given the opportunity to learn cutting-edge cyber security skills alongside their secondary school studies.”
Digital and Culture Minister Matt Hancock
An apprenticeship scheme has also begun to support key employers to train and recruit young people aged 16 or over who have a “natural flair for problem-solving” and are “passionate about technology”.