Openreach unveils £485,000 investment in Scottish training school

Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn opens new fibre training school in Livingston, West Lothian. National centre and unique outdoor ‘classroom’ will give engineers the skills they need to build Scotland’s full fibre future as investment is welcomed by Skills Development Scotland and Education Scotland.

Openreach today unveiled a £485,000 investment in a national fibre training school for Scotland to educate the country’s next generation of digital engineers bringing vital broadband services to communities across Scotland.

Trainees will test their skills in a 18,700 square foot replica street built from scratch to recreate the live network in the real world – Openreach’s first outdoor ‘Open Street’ in the UK. More than 2000 engineers from all over Scotland will train at the unique school in Livingston, West Lothian, this year.

In the last month, more than 4000 people have applied for 220 new trainee engineering roles being created in Scotland by the digital network business as it prepares for a major rollout of full fibre broadband to future-proof Scottish infrastructure for decades.

Opening the new school at Openreach’s national training centre in Livingston today during Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2019, Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, welcomed the investment in training on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Mr Hepburn said: “Investing in the skills of Scotland’s current and future workforce are priorities for the Scottish Government, recognising their positive contribution to our strategic focus on Inclusive Growth and improving productivity.

“In support of that we will continue to expand the number of apprenticeships available in Scotland, and in this Scottish Apprenticeship Week we fully welcome today’s Openreach announcement regarding their investment in Scotland and its workforce.”

Brendan Dick, chair of the Openreach board in Scotland, said: “Openreach is a long-term partner in Scotland’s success. Our network underpins the economy the length and breadth of the country, bringing a vital service to Scottish communities. With most people in Scotland able to connect to a superfast service today, we’re proud of our track record.

“We’re investing now for the future so that we have the local, skilled and experienced workforce needed to deliver a full fibre future for Scotland and keep communities connected, with better service, broader coverage and faster broadband speeds for all.

“Our training schools will help us to meet new training demands in a revolutionary, immersive environment and, this month, the learning days we deliver annually in Scotland will top 16,300 – the highest in the history of our business.”

Openreach trainees attending the fibre training school will receive comprehensive training – from picking up a job and setting up their working area safely to splicing together hair-breadth fibres or installing or repairing a line. The investment includes the replica residential street outside the centre to give recruits a safe, real-life environment to learn and practise every aspect of their work.

A live fibre network connects a replica local exchange to an office and two houses through pavements, ducts, poles and cabinets – with an extra dose of reality added by exposure to the elements and factors specific to Scotland, such as an inaccessible telegraph pole tucked away in a back garden.

The Minister also visited new fibre classrooms at the centre – complete with duct pipes, fibre cables and walls replicating inside and outside customers’ houses – and met Openreach trainees. The simulations include everything an engineer would encounter during a typical working day.

Openreach will also use the centre to help educate policymakers about the technical side of building a full fibre network and is working with further education establishments like West Lothian College to open its doors to engineering students.

Kirsty McFaul, senior education officer for technologies at Education Scotland, said: “Education Scotland supports work-based opportunities, such as Foundation Apprenticeships, as they provide young people with the skills and experience they need to progress into successful employment. Ultimately this will help to reduce youth unemployment as part of the Developing the Young Workforce agenda.

“We welcome the new opportunities this training facility will offer some of our young people which will allow them to build on their learning experiences and skills developed in school and get the qualifications they need to progress their career within STEM industry sectors.”

Eugene Gallanagh, senior director of Enabling Services at Skills development Scotland, added: “Work-based learning is providing the skills needed for a successful Scotland. We want more people and businesses across Scotland to benefit from the growing number of opportunities available in different sectors and workplaces.”

New engineer Elaine MacEachern, age 20, from Lockerbie was born profoundly deaf and struggled with academic life but enjoyed being outdoors and practical work. The former junior Motocross champion, who has also worked as a labourer, was one of 400 new trainees to join Openreach in Scotland in the last year and has just completed her training at Livingston.

Elaine said: “I thought engineering would be the perfect career for me as I’m very practical and love to be on the go. My job is different every day. I get to travel to different locations and work in different environments. A traineeship means you can enjoy your job and progress your work skills and knowledge along the way.”

More than 95 per cent of Scottish homes can already access fibre broadband services, through commercial investment and Openreach’s Digital Scotland partnership with the public sector, with the vast majority able to attain speeds of 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, with parts of Edinburgh and greater Glasgow at the forefront of its Fibre First programme. The company is on track to upgrade three million homes and businesses to Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) by the end of 2020.

Engineers have been honing their skills to deliver full fibre in rural Scotland through community fibre partnerships in places like Achnasheen and Glenmazeran; working with builders in new housing developments; and through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership with the public sector, led by the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.


Notes to editors

* FTTP is capable of delivering the fastest residential broadband speeds in the UK – up to 1Gbps – that’s around 24 times the UK average speed of 44Mbps (according to Ofcom) and enough to stream 200 HD Netflix movies simultaneously, based on Netflix internet connection speed requirements. Wholesale speeds are available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers, and attainable over individual lines, may vary.

Trainees joining Openreach this year will work towards a Diploma for IT and Telecommunications Professionals at SCQF Level.