Virtual learning keeps Scottish training school connected

More than 35 new online training courses are being delivered as part of a multi-million pound investment at Openreach’s training schools – including Livingston – as engineers continue to learn the skills required to keep Scotland connected during the pandemic.

In a typical year, more than 5,000 delegates pass through Livingston’s doors, a mix of new starters learning the ropes alongside existing engineers being given refresher training or new skills linked to new technologies.

During the last 12 months this number has more than halved as social distancing has reduced capacity at the school and made traditional classroom learning more difficult.

To help overcome this, a newly created virtual learning programme with 35 bite-sized modules is being delivered from dedicated broadcast facilities created within each of the training centres – an approach pioneered at the Livingston site. The team there was recognised in the recent Scottish Apprenticeship Awards, winning the Innovation in Learning Award.

The new studios have multiple cameras allowing the trainer to fully utilise equipment and show practical examples as if the delegates were in the room.

Andrea Phillips, Openreach Scotland’s manager for Learning and Development, said: “We’ve really had to adapt and re-think how we do things during the last 12 months. Training is a fundamental part of our business, from the obvious learning new skills angle, but also keeping our people safe by making sure they’re able to access vital health and safety material.

“We’d normally see around 5,500 people train here in Livingston every year – a total of more than 10,000 learner days - and they’d be spread across the site including our 12 teaching rooms, two pole training fields, a cabling area and our mock-up street including houses, flats as well as overhead and underground networks.

“While we’ve had to reduce this capacity, we’ve worked hard to deliver sessions like first aid training and driver theory completely online. Many other courses are now split between in-person and online learning and it’s probably improved the way we’ll deliver training in the future, which is one positive to come from all of this.”

New virtual courses created by Openreach’s learning and development team include pole testing, diagnosing broadband faults, and how to use engineering equipment such as handheld testers.

The switch to delivering more training online has advantages, with more delegates able to train online than could fit in a conventional classroom, and significant reductions in delegates’ mileage, travel time and costs.

Openreach’s role in Scotland extends far beyond training. More than 3,200 of our people live and work here and 275 new jobs were announced in December 2020.

Recent research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) also highlights the clear economic benefits of connecting everyone in Scotland to full fibre. It estimates this would create a £4.6 billion boost to the nation’s economy.