The National Security Agency (NSA) is tapping high school students, as part of a work study program, to polish their cyber skills and lure them into careers in intelligence.

“Once they’re here they get that sense of purpose from what they’re doing every day and they see that they can do things here that they can’t do anywhere else,” a CNN report cited an NSA recruiter as saying. “We want to get them in and get them hooked early to the mission so they can have a long career here. There’s more emphasis now on student programs than I think there’s ever been to try to get them when they’re young. Get them hooked young.” 

Participants in the program, which is 150 students strong, must obtain top secret security clearance to handle ultra-sensitive information.

Organizations in both the public and private sectors are battling a shortage of skilled cybersecurity workers and have increasingly put effort into attracting and retaining women, minorities and young people.