Openreach NI welcomes 100th apprentice

Openreach, Northern Ireland’s largest digital infrastructure provider, has welcomed its 100th apprentice engineer to the team this week - while at the same time 100 team members reached milestone work anniversaries, with each achieving 40 years of continued service.

In June 2020, Openreach announced ambitions to hire over 100 new apprentice engineers in Northern Ireland (NI), double the spaces available year-on-year, before the end of March 2021 and reached the 100 mark when Leanne Watson (29) from Belfast became the latest recruit to join the team.

Speaking about her new role, Leanne said: “Before I joined Openreach I was working as part of a sports team staff in the cruise line industry. I was due to join a new ship when the pandemic struck and found myself having to rethink my career options. A close friend already works at Openreach and she encouraged me to apply for the programme, knowing that at the end of the 18 months training I would not only receive an NVQ but would be a fully qualified engineer. I was nervous and kept wondering if I was too old for an apprenticeship but then thought why not, this is the perfect time to apply and to try something new. One week in I couldn’t be happier with my decision and I’m excited to see what opportunities my new post brings. I would love for my story to inspire others to think about a career in engineering.”

There has also been further cause for celebration at Openreach as more than 100 team members have reached a career milestone, having worked for the business for over 40 years. The team members, who bring a cumulative total of 4,000 years of experience and expertise to Openreach, will be formally recognised once current restrictions allow.

Maurice King, who hails from Downpatrick, is Openreach’s longest standing employee and is marking 52 years of continued service to Openreach this year. Having first joined Openreach as an Internal Construction engineer when he left school in 1969, Maurice then juggled working with studying before moving into the Transmission Planning department at Openreach where he continues to work as a Network Planning Engineer today.

Speaking on behalf of his fellow long-service colleagues, Maurice said: “Over the course of my career, I’ve witnessed major changes and seen how the telecoms network has been modernised and how our team has continued to grow. But the current pandemic has really shone a light on the importance of the work that we do. We’re providing an essential service and I’m really proud to be part of the team who are working hard to keep people connected and know my colleagues feel the same”.

The Openreach team, which is 1000 strong, have been appointed key workers during the current pandemic and are working hard to build and maintain the broadband network in Northern Ireland and to keep critical services, homes and businesses connected. Openreach is also leading the way in the rollout of ultrafast Full Fibre broadband on its network and has ambitious targets in place – including reaching more than 525,000 premises, which is nearly 60% of NI, by the end of March this year and further build plans thereafter.

Commenting on the recent team achievements, Mairead Meyer, Director Openreach Northern Ireland, said: “Our people are at the heart of our business and I’m incredibly proud that we can continue to welcome new team members and create opportunities for long-standing ones within our organisation – especially given the current climate.

Mairead continued; “Our team is made up of skilled, resourceful and innovative people and it is also multi-generational, with team members ranging from 18 to 70. We understand the importance of looking after and nurturing each person throughout every stage of their career. We recognise that they all want different things from their job and we’ve a wide range of policies and initiatives in place to support this.

“As we look to the future, we need a strong team in place to help us meet the ever-increasing demand for fast, reliable connectivity to support economic recovery and long-term growth. We’re aiming to bring ultrafast Full Fibre broadband technology to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. To deliver on these aspirations, we’re determined to make Openreach an even better place to work and to become a more inclusive and diverse workplace to attract and retain the best talent. We’ve proactively identified opportunities to promote and drive equality across our business including looking at how to encourage more females to consider roles within Openreach. Our people are our greatest asset, and we will continue to find ways to help them grow and thrive throughout their careers.”