Bletchley Park, the site of secret code-deciphering projects during World War Two, could become the centre for a new generation of codemakers and codebreakers.
There are plans for a training college to teach cybersecurity skills to 16-19 year olds at the Buckinghamshire site.
Former Home Secretary Lord Reid said it had become vital to build up the “talent pool” for cyber-defence. The college in a wartime building at Bletchley is intended to open in 2018.
The project, developed by a not-for-profit group from the cybersecurity industry, is planning a National College of Cyber Security, which would open in autumn 2018. There have been repeated warnings about the lack of a skilled workforce for cybersecurity in the UK, despite a rising number of sophisticated cyber-attacks.
A spokesperson for the GCHQ intelligence agency welcomed such “initiatives that promote and develop skills in cybersecurity”. “The concept of a sixth-form college is interesting, especially if it can provide a pathway for talented students from schools that are not able to provide the support they need,” the spokesperson added.
There would be no fees for students, who would work with professionals in cybersecurity and would study maths, computing and physics as part of their course. The project plans to use G-Block, built in 1943, on the Bletchley Park site as the base for the college, with a £5m restoration project for the building.
Bletchley Park was the base for wartime teams of codebreakers, who managed to break the German Enigma encryption system. The computer scientist Alan Turing was among those who worked there on deciphering coded messages.
The plan for training a new generation of codebreakers at Bletchley comes from a group called Qufaro, set up by cybersecurity representatives, including from Cyber Security Challenge UK, The National Museum of Computing and BT Security.
Alastair MacWilson, of the Institute of Information Security Professionals and chair of Qufaro, says cyber-education at the moment is “disconnected and incomplete, putting us at risk of losing a whole generation of critical talent”. He says that the Qufaro project will help to provide a more “unified” approach to try to fill the gaps in training.
Margaret Sale, founding member of the National Museum of Computing, said setting up a college would help to “reactivate” the site as a “major active contributor to our national security”.
Lord Reid, who chairs the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College London, said cyber-activity “now reaches into every aspect of our lives, as individuals and as a nation”. But he said there was a challenge in “developing a sustainable flow of skilled professionals for security, growth and cyber-innovation. “Existing initiatives cannot close the skills gap alone so it is vital that we keep looking for new ways to build our talent pool,” he stressed. He said the plans for a National College of Cyber Security could “harness the legacy of this historic location to inspire the next generation”.