The UK’s first ever cyber crime apprentice has started work with Cumbria Constabulary.

Cumbria police’s cyber and digital crime unit investigate cyber-crimes that take place in Cumbria from fraud to online sexual crimes, with investigations often reaching over to international police forces.

Niall McNicholas joined the unit as a partnership between Cumbria Constabulary and Energus, at Lillyhall, near Workington, which offers and supports apprenticeship and graduate programmes.

Niall, 19, has joined unit, based at the constabulary’s headquarters in Penrith.

As part of his apprenticeship, Niall is developing a tool to teach young adults and teachers about the dangers of online crime and how to identify it amongst peers and students.

By identifying older school-age children who have an affinity for cyber the schools and constabulary can encourage the development of these skills positively instead of a negative path, like hacking, fraud and theft.

Niall said: “Having on my previous placement worked on the policy side of cyber security, joining the cyber and digital crime unit has gave me a great insight into a whole different side of cyber.

“Working with the police has opened up lot opportunities to learn about cybercrime and help with the mitigation of it with the knowledge that I have gained from my training throughout the apprenticeship scheme.”

Peter McCall, Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner, said: “The ways in which criminals are targeting their victims has changed over recent years with more and more crimes taking place online and behind closed doors.

“You are more likely to be a victim of crime in your own home through cyber crime.

“We’re really keen to bring young people in to the workforce and help kickstart careers – whether this be as a trainee officer or the integral office staff.

“Niall is a really enthusiastic, bright young man and a fantastic asset to the cyber and digital crime unit and I know he has been working closely and bringing new ideas to the table to help make the online communities a safer place.

“I spent some time myself with Niall and learnt lots of techniques to keep me safe online and his project will do the same for young people all across Cumbria.”

Detective Inspector for digital media investigation Ian Harwood, added: “Niall has been an invaluable asset to our department.

“He has been able to look upon our work through youthful eyes but with an impressive degree of maturity and professionalism.

“Niall has brought digital thinking as ‘second nature’ to the department, contributing many ideas to create solutions to the issues we face.

“He has been particularly helpful in developing ways to reach out to the young people so that they can stay safe online and keep them away from any temptation to enter into cyber crime.

“While Niall is with us to learn and develop, I believe all in our department will agree that we have all benefited from his knowledge and expertise.”

Adrienne Easterbrook, general manager at Energus, said: “Energus is delighted to be working in partnership with Cumbria Constabulary, who have offered a fantastic placement to Niall.

“This apprenticeship has been set up to allow young people to gain a recognised level four qualification while gaining on the job experience.

“We wouldn’t be able to deliver the apprenticeship effectively without working with organisations like Cumbria Constabulary to offer this valuable experience.

“Niall has taken every opportunity during his time with Cumbria Constabulary and I look forward to seeing his career develop in this exciting and every changing sector.”