West Cumbria is leading the national war against cyber crime.

The North West's first cyber lab was officially opened today at Energus, Lillyhall.

The lab, a collaboration between Energus and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, will be used by cyber security apprentices, who are being taught how to protect computer systems from cyber attacks.

The first nine level four apprentices started in September and are seconded to firms across the country – and abroad – while learning about the latest technological techniques.

The lab, which features the latest technology including a touch screen table, will be used by the apprentices to learn how to tackle viruses and give them a 'real life' experience of cyber attacks within a simulated and immersive environment.

Rob Higgins, of the NDA, officially opened the cyber lab.

Bill Taylor, NDA programme director, said: "IT is integral to all our lives and yet there is a skills gap when it comes to tackling threats. This apprenticeship programme will go a long way to address that."

As well as the apprenticeship programme, Energus has recently become an associate of the National Cyber Security Centre, a part of GCHQ.

Energus will deliver a number of courses called CyberFirst, a pivotal part of the Government’s National Cyber Security Programme to give talented young people the support, skills, experience and exposure they need to become the cyber workforce of the future.

Adrienne Easterbrook, general manager of Energus, said: “This is a hugely important range of programmes that we have established in collaboration with our industry partners and government.

"Not only does it help reduce the skills shortage in cyber, but also opens up additional career opportunities for young people.

"We have invested significantly in our new facilities and programmes and are fully committed to placing Energus at the forefront of cyber security training for the North."

Tony Wilson runs Maryport-based cyber security company Indelible Data, which employs a cyber security apprentice.

The firm will also work with Energus to help deliver Cyber First training.

Mr Wilson said: "It's amazing that this cyber lab is in West Cumbria. Who would have thought, even just a few years ago, that this would be right on our doorstep?

"It means even a small company like ours can employ a cyber apprentice, who is getting top class cyber training in a facility just a few miles from where we are based."

Indelible Data apprentice Jason McNicholas, 19, said he was enjoying the apprenticeship.

He said: "I've always had an interest in cyber security but but didn't think I could get into it as a career. This aprenticeship is great. I really like it."

Colin Reed, director of Energus and chairman of the National College for Nuclear, said: "We have created a facility which addresses a national demand for cyber security capability to deliver the best quality young people to work in the industry."