GCHQ is one of the UK's intelligence services and has two specific roles in helping counter threats to national and global security. The first is to use technology to intercept communications and electronic signals from around the world and produce intelligence. This is used by its customers - the government, law enforcement agencies and military - to inform foreign policy and fight terrorism/crime.
The second is to act as a security organisation in the area of information assurance, providing technical advice to a range of UK customers on how to safeguard IT, communications and electronic data.
The GCHQ apprenticeship scheme
The GCHQ apprenticeship scheme is a three-year programme open to candidates with a genuine interest and aptitude in technology. To apply all candidates must have a minimum of 5 GCSEs (A-C) that include a grade B in Maths and Science and a grade C in English language. Due to the sensitive nature of GCHQ's work, applicants must be British citizens. However, as an employer committed to diversity and a workforce that reflects this, GCHQ welcomes applicants from all sections of the community.
The organisation is looking for motivated, technically orientated individuals who enjoy hands-on work, to help it build and maintain some of the worlds most sophisticated electrical/electronic equipment, and in the process help it tackle terrorism, organised crime and the cyber threat.
"(We're on the look out for) people who have a keen aptitude and interest in technology; who like tinkering with gadgets, have an innovative and inquisitive mind to want to know how things work and enjoy learning new varied skills. They also need to be good team players," highlights GCHQ's technical schemes manager.
Successful applicants will spend two years at Gloucestershire College and the third year at GCHQ on a placement programme. During this time they get involved in real tasks of research development or project nature. Supported throughout, apprentices are provided with a GCHQ apprentice manager and mentors from previous intakes, who provide individual support on training and development issues.
"Apprentices won't just be 'studying' all the time," the technical schemes manager explains. "As they become more involved in the programme, opportunities arise for them to become involved in real work projects that link into their studies at college. The programme is tailored to meet the needs of the business, which means there is a very broad skills set they will be expected to fully engage in. It is a challenging and exciting programme, which includes a third year of work placements across the main technology business areas of GCHQ - so it most definitely isn't boring!"
Apprentices will walk away from the scheme with the following:
- BTEC National Certificate in Communications Technology
- QCF2 in Performing Engineering Operations (covering hand skills, drawing (CAD models), electronic and mechanical science, fibre optics and electronic board design and manufacture)
- QCF3 in Technical Support or Technical Services
- Key Skills (covering literacy, numeracy and IT).
After successful completion of the apprenticeship and depending on business needs, apprentices may be offered a permanent position with GCHQ as a GC12 technician. There may also be an option for continued learning to attain an HNC/D if this meets business requirements.
Due to the programme being approved by the IET, apprentices are also able to attain EngTech and ICTTech professional registration through the IET on completion of the programme.