Openreach Showcase van hits the road in Scotland

Ayrshire school careers & diversity fair is first stop for high-tech vehicle

The latest tool in Openreach’s drive to get pupils thinking about careers in engineering – a high-tech Showcase van - hit the road for the first time in Scotland on Monday at an Ayrshire careers fair.

The digital network business has created two new, customised vehicles which will tour the UK to showcase the latest communications technologies to the wider world.

The first stop in Scotland was the Diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) event being attended by 600 third-year pupils from secondary schools across North, East and South Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway at the University of the West of Scotland’s Ayr Campus this Monday to Thursday during Tomorrow’s Engineers Week1 (4-8 November).

Openreach talent and diversity manager Carol Buchanan said: “Scotland is facing a STEM skills shortage in the next few years. Fewer young people are choosing to enter engineering and scientific careers. If they don’t identify with the people they see doing these jobs, they rule themselves out without even realising it.

“As a business built on engineering and the UK’s biggest recruiter of apprentices, we’re working hard to attract a more diverse range of young people to STEM careers. Hands-on experiences are the best way to engage young people in engineering, so it’s great to have our new Showcase van making its first public appearance in Scotland at this fantastic event.

“Supporting events like this is one of the ways Openreach helps young people see that there are exciting options out there. While some believe engineering involves a lot of heavy lifting, those days are behind us. Modern engineering is really about problem solving and finding creative ways to do things.”

The event has been organised by Raising Aspirations in Science Education (RAiSE), a partnership between The Wood Foundation, Education Scotland, Scottish Government and participating local authorities to enhance the delivery of science education in schools.

Openreach is supporting the event over the four days, with senior engineering manager Graeme Heron and female engineer Ashley Gemmell from Paisley giving the opening address on Monday and colleagues joining them to stage workshops and hands-on demonstrations using the new Showcase van.

The vans are specially designed and equipped to takes learners on an engineering journey which shows how fibre broadband powers all the things people like to do online.

They’re kitted out with everything from cables and fibre equipment to a TV and gaming station which stream content in the same way as people would at home. Virtual reality headsets and specially shot 360-degree footage show what life is like as an engineer, and the vans also feature 4G, WiFi and much more.

Learners also had the chance to see how to ‘splice’ together tiny fibre strands, working in pairs to complete the task of creating a fibre necklace keepsake; dress up as an engineer at a selfie stand; and enter a draw to win two SNAPTAIN S5C drones with HD cameras donated by Openreach. Pupils were awarded draw tickets for their contribution to workshops and asking good questions.

Openreach’s Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) footprint, at speeds of up to 80Mbps2, currently passes more than 2.6 million homes and business premises in Scotland. The digital network business has also ramped up plans for Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP)2, aiming to reach four million homes and businesses across the UK by March 2021, and, if the conditions are right, to go significantly beyond. It has unveiled plans to build full fibre (FTTP) networks in Kilmarnock, Ayr and Stanecastle (Irvine).


Note to editors

1 The Royal Academy of Engineering launched its This is Engineering campaign in January 2018 to help address the UK’s persistent skills and diversity shortfall. After 35m views of its campaign films, 72% of teens who have seen them say that they would consider a career in engineering, compared to 39% before the campaign launched.

This year the RAE has set a new challenge: to change the image of the engineer and engineering among the wider public and counter the stereotype of engineering as a field dominated by white men in hard hats. It has declared Wednesday 6 November This is Engineering Day, in the middle of Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, to publicly celebrate more diverse and representative images of engineers online and offline.

2 These are wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary. FTTP is capable of delivering the fastest residential broadband speeds in the UK – up to 1Gbps – fast enough to download a two hour HD movie in 25 seconds or a 45-minute HD TV programme in just five seconds.


About Openreach

Openreach Limited is the UK’s digital network business.  

We’re more than 35,000 people, working in every community to connect homes, schools, shops, banks, hospitals, libraries, mobile phone masts, broadcasters, governments and businesses – large and small – to the world. 

Our mission is to build the best possible network, with the highest quality service, making sure that everyone in the UK can be connected. 

We work on behalf of more than 665 communications providers like BT, SKY, TalkTalk, Vodafone, and Zen, and our broadband network is the biggest in the UK, passing more than 31.8m premises. 

Over the last decade we’ve invested more than £15 billion into our network and, at more than 190 million kilometres – it’s now long enough to wrap around the world 4,798 times. 

Today we’re building an even faster, more reliable and future-proof broadband network which will be the UK’s digital platform for decades to come. We’re making progress towards our full fibre optic network target to reach 25 million premises by December 2026. Research shows a nationwide Full Fibre network could potentially provide a £59bn boost to UK productivity.

To help build the new fibre network and deliver better service across the country – we’ve created and filled more than 9,000 apprenticeship roles in the last two years and we’re recruiting another 1,000 trainee roles in Openreach in 2021. We’re also building greener – we operate the UK’s second largest commercial fleet and want to help lead the transition to electric vehicles, with a target to transition our fleet to being electric in 2030. 

Openreach is a highly regulated, wholly owned, and independently governed unit of the BT Group. More than 90 per cent of our revenues come from services that are regulated by Ofcom and any company can access our products under equivalent prices, terms and conditions. 

For the year ended 31 March 2021, we reported revenue of £5,244m.

For more information, visit www.openreach.co.uk