THE threat of cyber attacks from hostile nations and cyber criminals could be faced down by an army of school-leavers.

With the UK facing an estimated shortfall of 100,000 cyber security professionals, gifted young people are being urged to consider an apprenticeship in cyber security as an alternative to university.

The Swindon-based BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, has developed two cyber security apprenticeship routes that will deliver professionals with technical expertise and specialist skills to the IT industry within two years.

For the apprentices, a fulfilling career with salary expectations typically 15 per cent above the industry standard awaits.

A recent parliamentary report found the gap between supply and demand of skills is now verging on a crisis. The Parliamentary report on Cyber Skills and the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure said thousands more skilled programmers were needed to protect government and industry from the threats posed by hostile nations including Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, and from criminal enterprises which are increasingly attaining state-level capabilities.

BT Security, which already employs almost 100 cyber security apprentices and is looking to recruit more, told ministers it only had around one-third of the candidates it needs for the jobs posted.

The UK’s National Security Strategy 2016-2021 also recognises the lack of young people entering the profession and the absence of established career and training pathways as two of the main factors contributing to the skills gap.