Back to school for Scottish Apprenticeship Week

Lothian MSP Neil Findlay met the engineers of the future at Openreach’s £485,000 fibre training school in Livingston today, as part of Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2020.

The revamped centre provides hands-on training for thousands of engineers who will build the next generation of full fibre broadband* for communities across Scotland.

Mr Findlay joined trainees and visiting senior pupils from Livingston’s Inveralmond Community High School to see how the new ultrafast network is built directly to people’s houses and business premises, before connecting up tiny, hair-sized fibres in a process known as ‘splicing’.

He visited the pole field where engineers learn to safely climb poles and walked down the centre’s replica suburban street - complete with street cabinets, poles and underground cables – which recreates the live network in the real world.

Mr Findlay said: “Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2020 is all about celebrating the diversity that makes work-based learning good for individuals, employers and the economy.

“It was great to meet some of Openreach’s apprentices who will have a central role to play in Scotland’s digital journey from old copper cables to a full fibre future, as well as pupils from Inveralmond Community High who will hopefully now be giving some serious consideration to apprenticeships and STEM careers as they make decisions about their futures.

“Investment in skills and training is vital to a strong economy, as is fast, reliable connectivity. Chatting to trainees, it’s clear that learning in this unique, hands-on environment provides an experience you just can’t get sitting in a traditional classroom.”

Openreach has recruited around 600 trainee engineers in the last two years. They work towards their Diploma for IT and Telecommunications Professionals at SCQF Level 5.

Visit host Andrea Phillips, Scottish learning manager at the Livingston school, said: “More than 2000 engineers have learned new skills here in the last year, so it’s a great place to celebrate Scottish Apprenticeship Week. We welcome other educators, including schools and colleges, to show that engineering apprenticeships are a brilliant career choice for girls and boys across Scotland.

“People join us from all walks of life – we’ve had former butchers, soldiers, beauty therapists, a veterinary nurse and a deep-sea diver, as well as school-leavers, among our recent recruits. Like many employers, we need a diverse workforce that reflects the communities we keep connected.”

Openreach trainees receive comprehensive training at the school – from how to pick up their next job and set up their working area safely to installing and repairing lines.

Paul McGuiness, NTP Performance and Operations Manager at Skills Development Scotland, said: “Scottish Apprenticeships are for everyone, no matter their background, and for every business, no matter its size or sector. It’s fantastic to see businesses like Openreach backing apprenticeships and see the achievements of individuals benefiting from work-based learning.

“Businesses report that employing apprentices boosts productivity and staff morale whilst apprentices tell us that they would recommend apprenticeships to others.”

Nearly 98 per cent of Scottish premises can now access fibre-based broadband services, through private sector investment and Openreach’s Digital Scotland partnership with the public sector, with the vast majority able to attain speeds of at least 30Mbps.

The company is embarking on the next stage of investment, a rollout of more reliable, faster full fibre direct to people’s homes and businesses. Openreach plans to upgrade four million homes and businesses to Fibre-to-the-Premises* (FTTP) by March 2021 and up to 15 million by mid 2020s if the conditions are right.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2020 runs from 2-6 March. You can find out more about Scottish Apprenticeships at www.apprenticeships.scot/scotappweek