GCHQ says it has long valued neuro-diverse analysts but is now making an even bigger push into its recruitment drive.
The agency says that apprentices on GCHQ’s scheme are already four times more likely to have dyslexia than those on other organisations’ programmes, as a result of a drive to recruit those whose brains process information differently.
GCHQ says those with dyslexia have valuable skills spotting patterns that others miss - a key area the spy agency wants to encourage as it shifts away from dead letter drops towards high-tech cybersecurity and, crucially, data analysis.
“We’re looking for people who can see something that’s out of place in a bigger picture, who have good visual awareness and can spot anomalies,” said Jo Cavan, the director of strategy, policy and engagement at GCHQ.
“If they’re sifting through large amounts of data from a large number of sources to prevent a terrorist attack or a serious organised criminal, skills such as pattern recognition are key. A lot of dyslexic colleagues have those strengths.”
Cavan said that the agency has valued neurodiversity during its 100-year existence, with the second world war code-breaker Alan Turing its best known employee with dyslexia. However, the shift to online defence and security prompted by the government’s integrated review in March will make dyslexic thinking skills an even bigger feature of GCHQ’s future, she said.