Openreach and First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, today unveiled a brand new ‘National Learning Centre for Wales’ that will teach the country’s next generation of telecoms engineers how to build and maintain vital broadband services for communities across the country.
Based in Newport, the new £1.7 million centre will give trainee Openreach engineers the opportunity to learn the ropes and test their skills in a state-of-the-art replica street, built from scratch to recreate the real network in the outside world.
Nicknamed ‘Open Street’, the centre will enable engineers to experience a typical working day – from laying cables to building joints and making repairs, working underground or climbing telephone poles and installing new services inside customers’ homes and businesses.
Up to 6,000 new and existing Openreach engineers from across Wales, as well as further afield, are expected to train at the centre during a typical year as the company accelerates its flagship full fibre broadband deployment across the country.
Welcoming Openreach’s commitment to Wales and its investment in training, Welsh Government First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said:
“The new centre will be a great asset for us in Wales that will train thousands of engineers every year. This is a vital sector that provides services that we rely on every day at work and in our personal lives. Bringing faster and more reliable broadband to more homes and businesses will boost the economy and create opportunities for the future.”
Across Wales, Openreach already employs more than 2,500 people and, since April 2018, the company has hired more than 600 new trainee engineers throughout the nation, with recruitment ongoing.
The 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 Wales and the rest of the UK.
Connie Dixon, Openreach’s Partnership Director for Wales, said:
“Our network underpins the economy the length and breadth of Wales, 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 Wales to keep communities connected, with better service, broader coverage and faster broadband speeds for all.”
Openreach engineers attending the centre will receive comprehensive training – from IT systems 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 practice aspects of their work without impacting real customers.
Recently recruited Openreach trainee engineer, Ben Cameron, who’s currently being trained at the new facility ,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 the ‘Open Street’ provides me with the environment to 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 an 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.”
About Openreach in Wales
Openreach plays an important role across Wales with more than 2,500 of our people living and working here.
More than 320,000 homes and businesses in Wales can already order our ultrafast, ultra-reliable full fibre broadband via dozens of retail Communications Providers who use the Openreach network and the company recently updated its build plan for Wales and the rest of the UK which will be fundamental to the UK Government achieving its target of delivering ‘gigabit capable’ broadband to 85 per cent of UK by 2025.
The updated plans will see Openreach investing £15 billion to build its ultrafast full fibre technology to a total of 25 million premises across the UK, including more than six million in the hardest-to-serve parts of the country by the end of 2026.
Openreach has made a number of recent announcements about its build plans for Wales, with more than 415,000 additional homes and businesses – in 140 mainly rural and harder to serve areas across every single Welsh local authority area – getting access to ultrafast fibre broadband. The company is also working in partnership with Welsh Government to reach those that are in the final 5%.
Recent research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) highlighted the clear economic, social and environmental benefits of connecting everyone in Wales to full fibre. It estimated this would create a £2 billion boost to the local economy.