BT's broadband expansion to create 1000 new jobs

BT is launching a major new recruitment drive as its £2.5 billion investment in fiber-optic broadband starts to accelerate. More than 1000 engineering jobs are being created at the company’s Openreach business, with most of the new recruits set to install broadband in customers’ homes. The new jobs are in addition to the 1500 extra engineers recruited during the past year.

Following this recruitment, there will be more than 6000 people working on what BT claims is the fastest fiber-optic broadband roll out in the world. BT says its fiber-optic broadband network is the largest in the UK, passing more than 13 million premises, and the technology is being made available to an additional 100,000 homes and businesses every week. It combines both fiber to the home (FTTH) and fiber to the cabinet (FTTC) architectures.

The recruitment drive reflects BT’s success with winning work from the government to the superfast broadband to areas that may not have been served otherwise (see “BT details next phase of fiber broadband deployments”). It also reflects the strong demand for fiber that the company is now experiencing, according to BT.

Prime Minister David Cameron said, “I warmly welcome the announcement from BT today. Working with business, the Government is driving a transformation in UK broadband services and with an extra 100,000 homes and businesses gaining superfast broadband availability each week, this is already taking shape. Providing much faster broadband speeds, and enabling millions more homes and businesses to enjoy these speeds is vital for driving investment and equipping the UK to compete and thrive in the global race.”

BT chief executive Ian Livingston added, “Faster broadband will help to fuel the UK economy and the jobs we are creating are part of that. Almost half of the jobs will be offered under our popular apprenticeship scheme giving young people the chance to earn a recognized qualification and pursue a career as a skilled telecoms engineer.”

The business will fill the 1,000 posts with a mix of apprentices, further armed forces personnel, and other candidates, including some long-term unemployed.

Four hundred apprenticeships are to be offered, providing young people with a training scheme lasting two and a half years. These apprentices will focus on installing new fiber-optic broadband connections in customers’ homes during their first year, before going on to learn the full range of engineering tasks.

At the end of their training, the apprentices will achieve a BTEC Level 3 Diploma and Certificate in ICT Systems and Principles. As part of their qualification, apprentices will also complete academic studies in math, English, and ICT, providing them with the skills needed to progress in the workplace.

These apprenticeships are likely to be much sought after, says BT. The operator has recruited around 460 apprentices to date in the current financial year having received 18,500 applications – more than 40 for each available position.

Governments key to EU broadband plans

The support of individual governments in the European Union is required to ensure next generation broadband coverage and usage targets are met, a European Commission report states.

While the report predicts that half of EU households will gain access to 100-Mbps broadband networks in the coming years, it notes that only 26% of those homes will sign up to services on the networks. The figure falls short of an EC target for 50% uptake outlined in its Digital Agenda, in turn increasing the importance of national governments in spurring supply and demand, the report reveals.

The report, which was prepared by Analysys Mason and ICT policy advisors Tech4i2, also predicts that high speed broadband networks in Europe will generate cumulative economic benefits worth between €200 billion and €600 billion between 2012 and 2020.

“The report provides a substantial input into the debate on the value of high-speed broadband networks,” Matt Yardley, partner at Analysys Mason and director of the report’s team, says adding that the findings “will play an important role in supporting the EC’s Digital Agenda for Europe, as well as informing public and private stakeholders on the specific differences in the likely broadband outcomes between countries.”