Openreach is investing £1.7 million in a new fibre training centre in Bolton. The new facility is part of a wider plan to educate the next generation of digital engineers bringing vital broadband services to communities across the North West and beyond.
Trainees will test their skills in a state-of-the-art 770 square metre replica street, built from scratch to recreate the real network in the outside world. Nicknamed ‘Open Street’, the school will enable engineers to experience a typical working day – from laying cables to building joints and making repairs, working underground or overhead, climbing telephone poles and installing new services inside customers’ homes.
Around 2,500 new and existing Openreach engineers from across the North of England, as well as further afield, are expected to train at the centre this year alone.
Across the North West, Openreach employs around 3,500 people to build and maintain its phone and broadband network. Since April 2018, the company has hired more than 180 new trainee engineers across Greater Manchester alone and the recruitment is ongoing. These new engineers will be key to delivering the company’s ‘Fibre First’ programme, which is bringing faster, more reliable and future proof Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) broadband technology to millions of front doors across the UK.
Opening the new training centre in Bolton, Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said:” This fantastic training facility is going to play a major part in training and educating a new generation of engineers, of all ages and from all walks of life.
“The value of being able to learn in a live environment which replicates the real-life scenarios trainees will encounter cannot be underestimated. These trainees will be able to approach their early working days with confidence and get off to a flying start.”
Catherine Colloms, Openreach’s managing director of Corporate Affairs, said: “Our network underpins the economy the length and breadth of Greater Manchester, bringing a vital service to communities in both urban and rural areas. We’re proud of our track record but recognise there is still more to do.
“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 Greater Manchester and keep communities connected, with better service, broader coverage and faster broadband speeds for all.”
Openreach engineers attending the training centre 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 inside the centre to give recruits a safe, real-life environment to learn and practise aspects of their work without impacting real customers.
A live fibre network connects a replica local exchange to two business premises and three residential houses through pavements, ducts, poles and cabinets.
Recently recruited trainee engineer, Josh Earle from Gorton, said: “Training has been brilliant – the facilities and trainers have been a very positive introduction to the company.
“Each part of the job is broken down and then matched with the relevant live training environment which has really given me the opportunity to get stuck in and put into practice what I’ve learned. It has definitely helped me gain a greater understanding of the job and the network without the added pressure of a customer waiting for a line to be fixed or their fibre to be switched on.
“Making the career change to be a engineer with Openreach was a big decision but it’s definitely been the right one. I’m sure I’m going to enjoy working here for many years to come.”
Nearly 97 per cent of North West homes and businesses can already access fibre broadband services, through commercial investment and Openreach partnerships with the public sector, with more than half able to attain ultrafast speeds of 100 Mbps+.
Openreach is embarking on the next stage of investment, building a more reliable, faster, fibre network direct to people’s homes and businesses, with Salford, Stockport, Manchester and Bury, at forefront of its Fibre First programme. The company is on track to make this technology available to four million homes and businesses by March 2021 and, if the conditions are right, intends to go significantly further, building to the majority of homes and businesses in the UK.