UK’s fiber optic broadband construction company, Openreach announced an investment of GBP485,000 for a national fiber optic training school in Scotland. This training school will educate the country’s next generation of digital engineers bringing vital broadband services to communities across Scotland.
The training school will recreate a replica of a live fiber optic network in a street built from scratch. The trainees can test their skills in the live network. The 18,700 sqft training facility would provide real-world experience to the trainees before they are assigned to work in Openreach projects.
The training facility would be 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, in 2019.
Openreach received more than 4000 applications for the 220 new trainee engineering roles being created in Scotland. Openreach announced its intention to recruit 220 trainee engineers a month ago. Openreach is preparing for a major rollout of full fiber optic broadband to future-proof Scottish infrastructure for decades.
An opening ceremony of the new school at Openreach’s national training center in Livingston was held on March 5, during Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2019.
Mr. Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills said:
“Investing in the skills of Scotland’s current and future workforce are priorities for the Scottish Government, recognizing 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 fiber 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.”
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.”
Openreach trainees attending the fiber training school will receive comprehensive training, starting from picking up a job and setting up their working area safely to splicing of optical fibers or installing or repairing a line. The investment includes the replica residential street outside the center to give recruits a safe, real-life environment to learn and practice every aspect of their work.
A live fiber optic network will be installed, which will connect 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.
Openreach will also use the training center to help educate policymakers about the technical side of building a full fiber network and is working with further education establishments like West Lothian College to open its doors to engineering students.
Openreach added that more than 95 percent of Scottish homes can already access fiber 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 plus.
The company is embarking on the next stage of investment, a rollout of more reliable, faster full fiber direct to people’s homes and businesses, with parts of Edinburgh and greater Glasgow at the forefront of its Fiber First programme. The company is on track to upgrade three million homes and businesses to Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) by the end of 2020.
Engineers have been honing their skills to deliver full fiber in rural Scotland through community fiber 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.