- Kevin Brady
- Fibre first
Building Openreach’s army of engineers by Kevin Brady, HR director
As a world-leading digital economy, Britain’s at the forefront of the global digital revolution.
This is a country where a new tech start-up is founded every hour in our capital. A country where more than half of homes now have a tablet and where over 99 per cent of young people use social media every week.
And as Britain’s digital infrastructure champion, we’re proud to have played our part in this revolution. Over the last year our 22,000 engineers have been the driving force behind the Government reaching its target of making “superfast” broadband available to more than 95 per cent of the country, while also improving our customer service performance.
We’re proud of our achievements, with Britain leading Europe in broadband coverage and speeds. But we know that to stay ahead of the revolution we need to do more.
Recruiting for the future
Our ambition is to deliver the fastest possible digital connectivity to everyone, everywhere, equally, across the entire country. As a signal of this, last month we unveiled our “Fibre First” programme, which will upgrade Britain’s broadband network from superfast to ultrafast. That’s why Openreach is today embarking on the greatest recruitment drive in our history as we accelerate plans to build an ultrafast full fibre network across the country. Because, even in these times of change, ultrafast broadband has the potential to transform how we use the internet, and enable the technologies of tomorrow that haven’t even been thought of yet.
With ultrafast speeds you can download a two-hour HD film in just 90 seconds. Even at peak times, households can stream video across multiple devices, whilst Dad makes a video call and Mum uploads large files to the cloud. Our full fibre programme will also play a crucial supporting role for evolving ultrafast mobile technologies like 5G – the first mobile standard designed to be seamlessly integrated with fixed broadband technologies.
Expanding the fibre network
During the first phase of “Fibre First”, our engineers are going to be hooking up homes and businesses in eight major UK cities to gigabit speeds. With the right investment conditions in place, we’ll then look to expand our full fibre network in up to 40 towns, cities and boroughs, with a view to reaching ten million UK homes and businesses by the mid-2020s.
We're getting on with the job of delivering ultrafast Britain, and that’s why our recruitment plans for 3,500 field engineers are our most ambitious ever. An army of highly skilled digital infrastructure engineers ready to deploy these new technologies in homes and businesses across the nation. Last year we filled 1,800 new roles and we’re looking forward to welcoming many more to our ranks in the months ahead.
Putting our money where our mouth is
This isn’t just a numbers game. We’re investing heavily in training our people. By next year we’ll have almost doubled the learning days we deliver annually to our people – from 74,000 in 2014 to more than 140,000 – another highest in our history.
We’re also creating 12 new regional training schools, fitted with state-of-the-art facilities that will make training more realistic and engaging. So our engineers will be better prepared and better skilled.
There’s never been a more exciting time to join Openreach, or a more pressing need to attract more people into the engineering professions. And that’s why we’re investing so heavily in our people.
If we’re going to encourage more young people into engineering, we also recognise the need to re-shape both how the profession is perceived and respected, and how our young people are taught.
The Government’s own attempts to help improve this situation – with the introduction of the apprenticeship levy – have come in for criticism from other parts of industry. There are claims that it’s too inflexible and skewed in favour of an older intake, rather than 16–18 year olds.
Because of our requirement for our recruits to hold a driving licence, we’ve always had low numbers in the 16–18 age group. But instead of picking holes, we’ve embraced the levy and used the opportunity to open up a much broader trainee engineer programme. This now sees all of our recruits undertaking a 12-month apprenticeship leading to a nationally accredited NVQ L2 qualification.
We’ll also be offering 500 work experience placements under the “Movement to Work” programme. This is aimed at 18–24 year olds who are currently not in education, employment or training.
A diverse workforce
We want men and women from all walks of life to apply for roles at Openreach. We’re keen to build a workforce that reflects the hugely diverse communities we serve throughout Britain. A workforce that ultimately will be at the forefront of delivering digital infrastructure to everyone, everywhere, equally – helping to secure the economic future of those communities for decades to come.
Find out more about our Trainee Engineer Scheme.