Openreach engineers climb Everest ten times without leaving Peterborough

Openreach’s training school in Peterborough is celebrating a successful first year, which has seen 2,500 engineers through the doors, and around 10,000 days of learning delivered. 

The centre, on Saville Road in Westwood, is one of 12 key training locations for the UK’s biggest phone and broadband network, and provides learning for apprentices, new recruits and existing engineers being trained in the latest technologies.

One of the most daunting weeks for new engineers is learning how to climb telephone poles, a key part of the job when it comes to providing new services to customers and fixing faults. Typically nine metres high, they may not look much from the ground, but certainly offer a different perspective from the top.

In fact, with dozens of engineers going up and down poles, steps and ladders each week, it’s estimated that since the training centre opened its doors in early 2019, engineers there have climbed the equivalent of ten times up Mount Everest (8,800 metres).

New recruit Nicole Taylor (pictured right) recently finished her training at Peterborough and said: “The training school was a really enjoyable eight weeks and I was able to learn so much. I was very comfortable climbing the poles for the first time, but I can see why some people might be apprehensive. To think that between us all, we’ve climbed Mount Everest ten times is staggering. The setup at Peterborough is brilliant and to have everything in one place for trainee engineers is such a good move. Before joining Openreach, I was a lift engineer, so it was quite a change for me and the training has set me up well for the future."

Although all learning is being carried out remotely at the moment, due to Covid 19, the Peterborough centre is  usually where engineers learn how to take fibre connections all the way from the telephone exchange, through a series of underground and overground ducts and poles, into a customer’s home or business.

More than £1 million has been invested into the site to transform it from a 1970’s office, storage and workshop unit into the vast training facility it is today. It’s even become a template for Openreach training centres across the UK – giving recruits and engineers a safe, real-life network get to grips with their work.

Central to the school is ‘Open Street’, which Openreach has built to mimic a typical residential road. Engineers can experience a typical working day - from cabling to jointing and repairs, working underground or overhead, climbing telephone poles and installing new services inside customers’ homes.

Some of the highlights from the last 12 months include:

  • 2,500 different engineers trained – a mix of new recruits and existing people
  • That’s a total of 10,000 learning days
  • A teaching team of 11 deliver all of the training courses provided
  • It’s a mix of indoor and outdoor learning – anything from setting up roadworks safely, problem solving, connecting a house to fibre broadband, to joining together two bits of fibre underground
  • A wide range of external visitors and tours including senior business leaders, MPs, the regulator Ofcom, HM Treasury, guests from local councils (including Cambridgeshire County Council), school and college visits
  • Opening the doors to the public for the first time as hundreds attended to celebrate and find out more about the work, as part of International Women in Engineering Day

Kasam Hussain, Openreach’s regional director said: “The training centre is a huge asset to Openreach and to Peterborough. It helps our engineers become part of the country’s largest team of telecoms experts working to expand, upgrade, maintain and install services over our national broadband network.

“Training engineers is just one part of a huge amount of work taking place in Cambridgeshire. We’ve been working closely with the county council to roll out superfast broadband, playing a key role in covering 97 per cent of homes and businesses. And just last year, we announced – at a launch at the training school - that we’re going even further with more than 5,000 homes and businesses set to benefit from ultrafast, ultra reliable Full Fibre broadband technology.

“It was also revealed in January that Openreach’s own commercial rollout is bringing full fibre to Ely, Glinton and Helpston.”

As key workers, Openreach engineers continue to operate across the East of England, focusing on essential services such as GP surgeries, pharmacies, emergency services, retail and wholesale food distribution outlets, public services, vulnerable customers and those without any service.