British spy agency losing graduate 'whizzes' to Microsoft, Google

British spy agency losing graduate 'whizzes' to Microsoft, Google

Summary: Britain's high-tech intelligence agency is losing "internet whizzes" to Microsoft, Google and Amazon, a report by Parliament warns.

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TOPICS: Microsoft, Google
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One of Britain's intelligence agencies, GCHQ, is losing out on graduates to Microsoft, Google and Amazon, warns the spy agency's director in the annual report of the UK Intelligence and Security Committee.

Iain Lobban, the director of GCHQ, said the recruitment drive to the public sector organisation is being hampered by competitive salaries to leading private sector technology firms.

GCHQ focuses all but entirely on signals interception and electronic threats to the United Kingdom's national security; similarly to the United States' National Security Agency.

(Image via BBC)

His statement in full highlighted the issues that the government agency has to contend with; in particular focusing on the issues of salaries offered by leading technology companies:

"I need some real internet whizzes in order to do cyber and I am not even sure they are even on the contractor market, so I need to work on that. They will be working for Microsoft or Google or Amazon or whoever. And I can't compete with their salaries; I can offer them a fantastic mission, but I can't compete with their salaries.

But I probably have to do better than I am doing at the moment, or else my internet whizzes are not going to stay... and we do have a steady drip, I am afraid. Month-on-month, we are losing whizzes who'll basically say: "I'm sorry, I am going to take three times the salary and the car and whatever else".

GCHQ, according to figures obtained by The Telegraph, show that just shy of 500 new staff were hired in the past year, but lost nearly 300 contractors. 

The inability to hold onto staff, particularly the younger 'brighter' gradates, is a problem highlighted by the committee in the annual report.

In the post-recession climate we find ourselves in, GCHQ cannot feasibly raise its salaries without sacrificing crucial budgetary measures from other areas -- such as active operations and research and development.

Another issue for prospective employees of the intelligence community is vetting: the security clearance allowing new employees access to some of the highest levels of state secrecy.

The Generation Y is in danger of putting their own futures in jeopardy for work with government departments and agencies -- with an increasingly social and open generation spilling their secrets and identifiable information on social networking sites.

Whether this will impact recruitment, it will only become clear in the long term.

Topics: Microsoft, Google

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4 comments
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  • What would you rather do?

    Serve your country on a public sector salary, or would you rather earn the big bucks and work for Microsoft, Google or Amazon (etc.) in the private sector? <b>Have your say.</b>
    zwhittaker
    • .....

      @zwhittaker <br><br>I am just about to start a graduate role at one of the above names. Quite frankly GCHQ didn't register with me as a viable option. When I was applying for an internship, GCHQ made me aware of the opportunities there but that was only through word of mouth. However, for graduate roles...I was unaware of what they had to offer.<br><br>At the end of the day, the big names will put a lot of time and resources to ensure that I see what they have to offer. Perhaps GCHQ do but I feel that they were unsuccessful in reaching me as a potential graduate.<br><br>If they committed someone to approach courses such as the Digital Forensics that specifically delivered the core competencies they were after and they said, "Want to be a spy?" - I cannot think of anyone who would turn that down.<br><br>tl;dr - I would absolutely prefer to work in the private sector purely because of job security. The problem I have though is that GCHQ failed to reach me as a potential graduate. They need to re-adjust their marketing as they certainly didn't target my university. However, my University isn't top 10 so I can understand that but GooSoftZon wanted me. Perhaps broadening their search may help.
      Alansonit
      • Job Security is a key factor

        @Alansonit
        here in the US your job can change or be eliminate on nothing and for no other reason then a change in the administration, no matter how great of a job you're doing.

        In the private sector, they usually try to keep those people.
        William Pharaoh
  • RE: British spy agency losing graduates to Microsoft, Google

    Here in the states it is more patriotic to be a revenue generator rather than a tax sucking vampire.
    Linux Geek