A national competition for schools is to be launched in the hope of encouraging teenagers, especially girls, to become so-called "cyber Jedi" – defending companies and government departments from an ever increasing number of online attacks.
The radical new measure is an effort to promote the field of cybersecurity, which is drastically short of qualified professionals. "A lot of companies are desperate to hire people for the roles in cybersecurity but they have not been able to find the number of qualified recruits,” says Stephanie Daman, the head of Cyber Security Challenge UK, the government-funded body driving the idea.
A pilot project is to start, in two thousand schools, in September, with the aim of rolling out the contest across England and Wales next year.
The organisers are not looking for people with a hacking background, or even those who already are computer literate.
"We need kids with raw talent in things like problem solving," said Ms Daman.
Recent statistics from Microsoft suggest that the IT industry will create 78,000 jobs in the UK in the next four years but research from the government body e-Skills confirms a 50% decline in young UK residents entering IT careers during the last five.
"Enterprise security: Mitigating fear, uncertainties and doubts" is a free event which is part of Bournemouth’s Festival of Learning", taking part on 6 June 2013. Register here.