The number of young girls applying for a summer course run by the National Cyber Security Centre has soared by nearly 50%, new figures show.

More girls than ever are applying to do the free CyberFirst courses which are held in Cardiff, Belfast, Paisley, Newcastle, Birmingham and London.

The figure rose by 47% this year compared to 2018, while overall applications for the courses went up by 29 percent over the same period.

The data was revealed on Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The NCSC, a part of GCHQ, said the courses, ‘lift the lid’ on everyday technology and encourage children to explore and understand how it works.

Nearly 12,000 girls took part in the prestigious CyberFirst Girls Competition 2019 and 705 of these enjoyed places on CyberFirst Defenders courses. Defenders, for 14 to 15-year-olds, is an introduction to how to build and protect small networks and personal devices.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Growth, said: “We’re delighted to see so many young people interested in finding out more about cyber security.

“The significant rise in female applications is especially pleasing, and something we want to see continue into the future.

“It’s never been more important to increase and diversify the cyber security workforce and we’re committed to nurturing the next generation of skilled experts and addressing the gender imbalance.”

Working with training experts QA and education charity The Smallpeice Trust, the NCSC delivers a range of one-day and five-day courses for 11 to 17-year-olds. The programme includes lectures, practical work and guest speakers.

Amy Lemberger, Cybersecurity Director, GSMA, said: “The CyberFirst courses show young people how diverse and exciting a career in cyber security can be.

“I really wish there was something like this around when I was in school.”

Saskia, CyberFirst Futures Cardiff attendee, said: “I haven’t had the opportunity to study computer science at school but CyberFirst has encouraged me to consider the subject at University – I just wish the course was longer.”

The CyberFirst initiative also offers bursaries for young people interested in studying cyber security at university. The bursary offers undergraduates £4,000 per year financial assistance and paid cyber security work experience to help kick start their career in cyber. Apprenticeships are also offered as part of the CyberFirst initiative. Successful applicants earn whilst they learn and have an opportunity to gain a recognised degree over the three-year programme.

More information on the CyberFirst initiative can be found here.