Openreach to hire 100 apprentices as part of £100m broadband build

GETTING CONNECTED: Mairead Meyer (right), director of Openreach in Northern Ireland, announces the £100m broadband investment, watched by Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill. Picture: Matt Mackey/PressEye
Gary McDonald Business Editor

DIGITAL infrastructure provider Openreach is to spent £100 million and recruit 100 new apprentices over the next 12 months as part of its plan to make Northern Ireland the most digitally connected region in the UK.

It says the capital expenditure will help bring ultra fast full fibre broadband to at least 100,000 additional homes and businesses in rural towns and villages across the north, supporting economic recovery and greater digital connectivity.

And the investment - which has been welcomed by both the First and Deputy First Ministers - means 530,000 properties in the region will be able to can access ultra-reliable broadband at speeds of up to 1 gigabit on Openreach's network.

The 100 new apprentices to be brought in this year and next will all receive 18 months' training and an NVQ before graduating as fully qualified engineers, and each will play a role in the broadband build.

The move by the Openreach follows a dramatic escalation in both demand for and usage of online services over the last year, driven by thousands of people working from home due to Covid restrictions.

First Minister Arlene Foster said she welcomed the commitment by Openreach to enhance and extend digital connectivity in Northern Ireland, adding: “The pandemic has shown us how important online services are to how we live, work, and engage together.

“Greater access to fast, reliable connections will make a real difference to people's lives and will also play a key part in the recovery and renewal of our economy.

“Importantly, this investment will also focus on the skilled workforce of the future with the creation of 100 new apprenticeship roles who will be supported to achieve engineering qualifications.''

Michelle O'Neill, deputy First Minister, added: “This £100m investment is hugely significant and particularly welcome as we work towards economic and societal recovery.

“The way people work, learn, do business and connect with one another means that access to quality broadband has never been more important.”

Mairead Meyer, director of Openreach in Northern Ireland, said: “Full deployment of ultrafast full fibre broadband by 2025 could boost the region's economy by £1.3 billion and employment by 1.6 per cent.

“The network we're building will deliver even greater benefits in terms of levelling up connectivity to provide economic and social rebalancing as well as having green benefits by enabling more home working and fewer commuting trips.

“We looking for more people to join our multi-generational team and to build a career at Openreach, so I'm delighted to announce a further 100 new apprentice roles in the coming year, and we encourage anyone, no matter their background or experience, to apply at and join us on this journey to build a network which will support the people of Northern Ireland for decades to come.”

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