Old and new as Openreach recruits 100th apprentice and salutes long-servers

OLD AND NEW: Long-serving Openreach employee Maurice King, who has 52 years of service, with Leanne Watson, the firm's 100th apprentice recruited since June. Picture: Kelvin Boyes/PressEye
Gary McDonald Business Editor

DIGITAL infrastructure provider Openreach has welcomed its 100th new apprentice engineer to the team while at the same time saluting 100 other team members which have each passed the 40-year service mark.

Last June the BT offshoot confirmed plans to hire at least 100 new apprentice engineers in Northern Ireland by the end of March, and it reached that milestone ahead of schedule when Leanne Watson (29) from Belfast became its latest recruit.

Having previously worked in the cruise line industry, she was due to join a new ship when the pandemic struck, and suddenly found herself having to rethink career options.

Leanne said: “A close friend who already works at Openreach encouraged me to apply for the programme, knowing that at the end of the 18 months training I would not only receive an NVQ but would be a fully qualified engineer.

“I wondered if I was too old for an apprenticeship, but chose to apply and to try something new. One week in, I couldn’t be happier with my decision and I’m excited to see what opportunities my new post brings.”

Openreach has also been recognising more than 100 team members who bring a cumulative total of 4,000 years of experience and expertise to the firm.

Maurice King from Downpatrick is Openreach’s longest standing employee with 52 years of unbroken service.

Having joined as an internal construction engineer when he left school in 1969, he then juggled working with studying before moving into the transmission planning department, where he still works as a network planning engineer.

Maurice said: “Over the course of my career I’ve witnessed major changes and seen how the telecoms network has been modernised and how our team has continued to grow.

“The Covid pandemic has shone a light on the importance of the work we do in providing an essential service, and I’m proud to be part of a team working hard to keep people connected.”

Openreach's 1,000-strong team have been appointed key workers in the pandemic as they work to build and maintain the broadband network in Northern Ireland and keep critical services, homes and businesses connected.

It has set ambitious targets around the roll-out of ultra-fast full fibre broadband, including reaching more than 525,000 premises by the end of March.

Its Northern Ireland director Mairead Meyer said: “People are at the heart of our business, and I’m incredibly proud that we can continue to welcome new team members and create opportunities for long-standing ones.

“Our team is made up of skilled, resourceful and innovative people and it is also multi-generational, with team members ranging from 18 to 70.


“As we look to the future, we need a strong team in place to help us meet the ever-increasing demand for fast and reliable connectivity to support economic recovery and long-term growth.”

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