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Spy Kids: UK starts secret agent apprenticeships

Britain Apprentice Sp_Bake.jpg

FILE This Tuesday, March 24, 2009 file photo shows Mike Hillyard, one of the volunteers who rebuilt a replica of the Turing Bombe machine that played a crucial part in cracking the Nazi Enigma Code, standing by the machine at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes, England. The British government is recruiting apprentice spies and codebreakers without university degrees in a bid to deepen the talent pool of its intelligence services. Foreign Secretary William Hague will announce details Thursday Oct. 18, 2012 in a speech at Bletchley Park, Britain's World War II code-breaking headquarters. (AP Photo/Akira Suemori)

How's this for a job title -- secret agent's apprentice?

The British government is recruiting apprentice spies and codebreakers without university degrees in a bid to deepen the talent pool of its intelligence services.

Foreign Secretary William Hague will announce details Thursday in a speech at Bletchley Park, Britain's World War II code-breaking headquarters.

The Foreign Office says the apprenticeship program aims to find up to 100 new recruits for GCHQ -- Britain's electronic surveillance agency -- and the MI5 and MI6 and intelligence services. The idea is to expand recruitment of spies beyond the traditional method of a discreet "tap on the shoulder" at university.

The program will be open to bright 18-year-olds with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and even computer gaming.

Ahead of Hague's speech, the Foreign Office said the goal was to "harness the expertise of its young people, who have grown up with a world of social media, global connectivity and interactive gaming, to make sure we can tackle the threats and challenges of the 21st century."

Hague will also back plans to preserve Bletchley Park, a complex of buildings and wooden huts northwest of London where hundreds of mathematicians, cryptologists and computer pioneers worked to crack Nazi Germany's secret codes. Historians say their work shortened World War II by as much as two years.

Bletchley Park's guardians are fundraising to restore the site and turn it into a museum.