One hundred students at four of the county’s colleges will be able to apply for new government bursaries designed to encourage them to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and digital courses.
The Gazette can reveal that Blackpool and the Fylde College is amongst the selected establishments. The others are Cardinal Newman College in Preston, Runshaw College in Leyland and Blackburn College.
The hope is that the 16-18-year-olds awarded the bursaries - which will be available to apply for during the current academic year - will contribute to the pipeline of future talent needed for the National Cyber Force (NCF) headquarters being built in Samlesbury.
Successful applicants for the scheme will get financial support, a high-performance laptop, and what the UK’s Strategic Command describes as “a broad range of mentoring and development opportunities”.
The NCF was established in 2020 to counter threats emanating from cyberspace and disrupt those who seek to harm the country and its allies - as well as to support military operations and prevent serious crime.
In launching the bursaries initiative, Strategic Command highlighted the need for science, engineering and digital skills to tackle the “complex threats” that the UK is facing.
The initiative is being trialled in Lancashire - where it will be co-ordinated by the Lancashire Skills and Employment Hub - before possibly being rolled out elsewhere.
Lancashire County Council leader Phillippa Williamson said that the bursaries would give 100 of the “many talented young people in the county…a huge helping hand to develop a career in defence".
She added: “This comes at a really exciting time for us, as we prepare to welcome the National Cyber Force to Samlesbury and the Lancashire Skills and Employment Hub works to help develop more opportunities for people to develop their digital and technical skills.”
Strategic Command’s General Sir Jim Hockenhull said of the bursaries scheme: “Digital and technical skills are at the core of everything we do - [and] attracting the right talent into defence is critical for our operational capability.
“There are incredible people across the UK who can make an extraordinary contribution to UK national security.
“This exciting digital bursary programme is a crucial step in identifying and fostering this talent, and I look forward to working with partners across the country to reach as many people as possible.”
Blackpool and the Fylde College was approached for comment.