National broadband network infrastructure builder Openreach is setting up a total of 12 engineering schools around the UK as it seeks to recruit and train 3,500 fibre broadband engineers to spearhead its fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) roll-out to three million properties around the UK.
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The centres in Bradford, Bolton, Cardiff, Croydon, Hertford, Livingston, Nursling, Peterborough, Thornaby, Yarnfield, Exeter and the Thames Valley will help support the largest expansion of Openreach’s workforce in the organisation’s history as it pivots to FTTP broadband through its Fibre First programme, launched in February 2018.
Designed to simulate a typical British street, the training centres will let new recruits and existing engineers alike develop and enhance their telecoms engineering skills in an immersive and controlled environment.
Those who complete 12 months at Openreach will ultimately receive a BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Professional Competence for IT and Telecoms Professionals if undertaking training in England or Wales, while applicants in Scotland will receive a Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level Diploma for IT and Telecommunications Professionals.
Speaking ahead of the opening of the first facility in Bradford, Openreach CEO Clive Selley said: “These trainee engineers will play a vital role in the future success and prosperity of the UK. Over the past year, our 22,200 engineers have been the driving force behind the government reaching its target of making ‘superfast’ broadband available to more than 95% of the country, whilst also improving our customer service performance – but we want to do more.
“Every day, Openreach engineers are working in all weathers across the length and breadth of Britain, connecting homes and businesses and making sure people can access the high-quality broadband services they need. We are already investing in upskilling our engineering team and today’s announcement of new jobs underlines our commitment to making our Fibre First programme a reality.”
“Over the past year, our 22,200 engineers have been the driving force behind the government reaching its target of making ‘superfast’ broadband available to more than 95% of the country, whilst also improving our customer service performance – but we want to do more”
Clive Selley, Openreach
Human resources director Kevin Brady said the organisation was looking for men and women from all walks of life to apply for the new roles.
“Becoming an engineer can be an incredibly rewarding career, and we’re constantly improving our training and recruitment programmes to make sure we attract and keep the best engineers in the business. This year, we’ve invested heavily in upskilling our people, so they can now do more for customers in a single visit, and we recently launched new career pathways to give our engineers a clear sense of the skills, accountabilities and experience they need to get where they want to be.
“We’re committed to helping people realise their potential, so we’re also delighted to be offering 500 work experience placements, under the Movement to Work programme, to 18-24 year olds who are currently not in education, employment or training,” said Brady.
Chancellor Philip Hammond, who today announced a £67m funding pot to provide FTTP connection vouchers worth up to £3,000 to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) around the UK, welcomed the recruitment drive, which – when taken with the anticipated expansion in Openreach’s supply chain – is expected to create more than 5,000 jobs.
“It’s great news that Openreach is creating 3,500 new permanent jobs rolling out full fibre broadband. This digital infrastructure will be welcomed by families and businesses across the country, and these new highly skilled jobs will be a boost to our talented workforce as we build an economy fit for the future,” said Hammond.
The Fibre First programme is designed to deliver expanded FTTP networks in 40 towns, cities and boroughs, with work set to begin later this year on digs in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.
Initially, Openreach hopes it will be able to cover three million properties by the end of 2020, but if the conditions are right, its long-term plan is to pass 10 million premises by 2025.
However, it has warned that the pace and extent of its FTTP roll-out will depend on it being able to achieve a decent return on its investment – FTTP in towns and cities should cost between £300 and £400 per property, £150 to £175 if the costs of battery backup are excluded.
To this end, Openreach has called for support from the government, the regulator, and other communications service providers (CSPs) to explore how to boost take-up of FTTP services by users when they become available, and how to lower the network build and connection costs.