The UK Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd MP, has welcomed news that Openreach, the UK’s digital network business, will hire 3,000 new trainees – of which around 1,600 are newly created roles – over the next 12 months. The announcement is an extension of Openreach’s largest ever recruitment drive, with 6,500 apprentice engineers being hired over this year and next to support its ‘full fibre’ broadband build plans.
New roles will be located throughout the UK, with trainees joining the country’s largest team of telecoms experts working to expand, upgrade, maintain and install services over Openreach’s national broadband network. Around half of the engineers will be helping to deliver the company’s ‘Fibre First’ programme, which is bringing faster, more reliable and future proof Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology to millions of front doors.
Alongside the latest recruitment drive, Openreach also announced 11 new locations where it will be building new FTTP networks during 2019iii – including Bury, Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Croydon, Greater Glasgow region, Harrow, Merton, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Sutton Coldfield, and Salford. This brings the total number of towns, cities and boroughs that Openreach will be building in to 25, with the company on-track to deliver its commitment of reaching three million homes and businesses with ‘full fibre’ broadband by the end of 2020. It wants to upgrade 10 million premises and ultimately the majority of the UK if the right conditions are in place for investment.
For the first time, Openreach plans to publish information on its website detailing its build plans for the next 12 months, including the total number of exchange areas to be reached in each location. It will also publish details of the specific exchanges where FTTP is currently being built, has already been built, or it intends to start building within the next three months. The company will update this information every three months as part of Openreach’s commitment to supporting the Government’s FTTP ambitions and strategy, as set out in the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review.
Speaking at the official opening of Openreach’s new training school in Peterborough, one of 12 new regional fibre training centres built to support the rollout, Rudd said: “This is a huge expansion in high skilled, well paying, jobs across the UK and yet another demonstration of the jobs success we have seen since 2010.
“Because behind every employment number is a person and family whose self-esteem, mental wellbeing and economic circumstances and life chances are all vastly improved by being in the workplace.”
“And it is also good news that these are some new training roles, developing the skills of our workforce. Training and apprenticeships can help create opportunities for women in what are traditionally, male-dominated industries.
“Last year a record number of women moved into work, something reflected in Openreach’s record of hiring more female staff than ever before. It follows on from the good progress we’ve already made with 70,000 women since 2010 starting work as science and engineering professionals.”
Minister for Digital Margot James described Openreach’s publication of clear plans for where, when and how they will be investing in new fibre networks as “an important step” suggesting that such long term commitments from the industry are “very important” for local communities who need this kind of guarantee on when they will be able to take advantage of the benefits that fibre can bring.
“Demand for full fibre broadband is only going to increase, and through our modern Industrial Strategy we’ve worked hard to create an environment that will encourage commercial investment like this,” she added.
“Openreach is ambitious for the UK and is determined to build full fibre as quickly as possible to ensure the country has a reliable broadband network capable of supporting future data-hungry services and applications essential for boosting productivity and sustaining our position as a leading digital economy,” declared Clive Selley, Chief Executive of Openreach.
“In the last year, we’ve learnt to build at high quality, and at a competitive cost. This year, we’ll prove that we can build the network on a vast scale and connect customers seamlessly.”
“We’re making great progress towards reaching our target of upgrading three million homes and businesses to full fibre by the end of 2020 – reaching another 13 thousand premises per week – and these new recruits will play a crucial role in that programme. Openreach is a people business and our new apprentices will enable us to fulfil our commitments, with an ultimate ambition to deliver the best possible connectivity to everyone, everywhere, equally, across the entire country.”
“We’re committed to being the UK’s national provider, so on top of our recruitment plans announced today, we’ve made public the next 11 locations where we’ll start building over the next 12 months. We’ll also be publishing updated plans every three months to give people a clear idea of where we’re building.”
The new Peterborough training school is one of 12 similar regional centres being built or upgraded across the country and, after Bradford, it’s the second facility to become fully operational under Openreach’s multi-million pound investment plans – with three more due in the next three months.
The 100,000 square foot facility includes an ‘Open Street’ – a meticulously designed mock-up of a typical suburban street – which gives new recruits and existing engineers the opportunity to develop and enhance their skills in an authentic, immersive and controlled environment. Around 3,500 engineers will pass through its doors during 2019.
“We want to get on with the job of delivering full fibre broadband to the UK, and that’s why we need to continue growing our team of highly skilled engineers ready to connect homes and businesses across the nation,” explained Kevin Brady, HR director, Openreach.
“We want people from all walks of life to apply for roles at Openreach, to build a diverse workforce that reflects the hugely diverse communities we serve. Last year we successfully recruited more women than ever before – and this year we want to go even further.”
“Our training schools will help us to meet our new training demands and, in March this year, we’ll have almost doubled the learning days we deliver annually to more than 160,000 – the highest in the history of our business.”
“Becoming an engineer can be an incredibly rewarding career, and we’re constantly improving our training and recruitment programmes , providing recognised qualifications, to make sure we attract and keep the best in the business. We’re investing 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.”